Welcome to the new version of European Tribune. It's just a new layout, so everything should work as before - please report bugs here.

Recent Comments:

In story: Easter Open Thread

Re: US State Senator on rail safety
( / )
Hey, at least he wasn't bashing rail service. Perhaps he wants the train to stop at that town.

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | Parent ]
In story: Easter Open Thread

Re: US State Senator on rail safety
( / )
"Safety as you know, is paramount."

Seconds before that silver thing railed by.

by Crazy Horse on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | Parent ]
In story: Easter Open Thread

Re: Easter Open Thread
( / )
v clever

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | Parent ]
In story: Easter Open Thread

Re: US State Senator on rail safety
( / )
Dopey twerp. I guess being a Senator he doesn't really know what those parallel bars of metal are for

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | Parent ]
In story: Easter Open Thread

Re: Easter Open Thread
( / )
Sunburnt ? You must be in  totally different climate zone from where I am

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | Parent ]
In story: Easter Open Thread

US State Senator on rail safety
( / )
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | ]
I think it adds up perfectly: Obama knows that this won't have any actual consequences outside the Beltway, so there is no reason for him to not take the path of least resistance.

Bombing Iran, on the other hand, would drag him into a war that he would lose even if he won.

- Jake

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | Parent ]
In story: In defense of tree-huggers

Re: In defense of tree-huggers
( / )
I don't deny that the social consequences of severe price rationing of air travel will be dire. But I strongly suspect that such a development is baked into the cake within the next decade simply due to the rising cost of fuel. The government supported flag carriers will likely be the last airlines to be seriously affected and downsized.

For those who have the time and for time insensitive goods high tech sail/solar powered transport may become a factor. The average speed of the trade winds should increase.

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | Parent ]
In story: In defense of tree-huggers

Re: In defense of tree-huggers
( / )
Sure, passenger liners may well revive in response, but given how awful marine diesel is, that's probably not a good idea, and anyway, most people can't afford to take a month off work for travel any more than they can afford a $6000 air ticket.

A passenger-converted fast freighter makes the Tokyo-LA round trip in 26 ocean days (most non-passenger freighters would probably slow-steam, so making it more like a month each way). A dedicated liner optimized for self-loading freight can probably shave four or five days off that.

That's... doable, if not necessarily optimal. And if you hold your holidays on Midway, you can cut the transit time roughly in half.

Definitely becomes easier if you have a position that lets you telecommute for a few weeks, though.

- Jake

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | Parent ]
It's an odd one given that the Obama administration has been willing to really annoy the Israelis over not bombing the shit out of Iran.

I wonder if this is a big noisy publicity stunt to appease aipac, but masking some backdoor horse-trading.

Otherwise it doesn't add up

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | Parent ]
In story: In defense of tree-huggers

Re: In defense of tree-huggers
( / )
Great diary, Cyrille, thanks for writing it.

The chief block to positive outcomes right now is the betrayal of our western governments with regard to their chief purported responsibility, to keep a country safe and raise the quality of life for its citizens.

Human imagination is limitless, if positive actions to slow down climate change were incentivised by governments we would have democracy working as intended. Instead we have corporate capture of environmental agencies and tax breaks for the fossil fuel companies, with very few sops in other directions.

Eco-cidal companies like Shell and BP run roughshod over regulations, control the media after disasters, and receive slaps on the wrist for their crimes.

The brains at the heart of corpo-capitalism know no other fealty than profit. For all their vaunted intelligence, they are the ones piloting humanity off a cliff, chortling over their so-called victory over the 'market'.

Loath as I am to admit it, people are our own worst enemies. Sheer force of habit is slowing down positive change. Breaking habits is hard. Capitalism has a hypnotic force over peoples' imaginations due to its internal logic of 'work hard and profit', which seems axiomatic on its face.

Where the cognitive dissonance comes is when you apply external logic to capitalism, at which point it becomes swiftly apparent that the Grand Bargain it offers is fundamentally Faustian.

The Omo people will lose their traditional lands to Corpo-Ag, but they will be able to enjoy electric toenail-clippers and $1 screwdrivers in return for their sacrifice, (sold to them as 'economic growth' and 'progress').

So the changes we need can only come from a giant spell-breaking. Art can serve this purpose. A little more romanticisation of Nature wouldn't hurt, IMO either. Seeing our habitat through strictly utilitarian
frames surely isn't helping much.

The most direct approach would be to transform democracy from within, throwing out old-paradigm pols and allowing fresh, uncorrupted intelligence into the system.

Not much evidence of that around, though the M5* has given me hope that it could be possible.


by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | ]
Plus, they've all read Shock Doctrine.


by Crazy Horse on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | Parent ]
In story: In defense of tree-huggers

Re: 'coming to terms with a terminal illness'
( / )
It's an interesting portrait. And it's true that "the ecological movement" in a broad sense is getting on for half a century old, for precious little result. Partly because we thought we were the spearhead when we were only a splinter (no, people will not willingly go for hitch-hiking and washing their hand-knitted woollies with bar soap; no, cavorting around dressed up as corn cobs does not strike people as an imaginative denunciation of GM crops; no, non-violent activism is not an unstoppable force, however much you quote Gandhi), and partly, more importantly, globalising corporate capitalism has become increasingly massively powerful over the same half-century, and is continuing to prove that it will pay no heed whatsoever to any environmental warning signs.

So you're left with the feeling that it will come down to the wire. A number of factors (inner contradictions, reliance on bubblicious finance, environmental constraints) may bring g.c.c. to its knees. More of a cataclysm than a crisis, probably (really) WWIII, and hugely costly to humanity. There might have been a more intelligent way, but humanity is collectively stupid.

This may sound complacent coming from someone who may not have to face the mess, but I do live with younger generations and care about what happens to them. So no popcorn.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | Parent ]
In story: In defense of tree-huggers

Re: In defense of tree-huggers
( / )
Power generation and transportation are two critical areas, no doubt.  Another are in which mass scale concerted action is really necessary is in eco-remediation, particularly of waterways and coastlines.

1 - Reducing the toxin flow, by eliminating agricultural and industrial toxin releases into rivers, lakes, and oceans.  This would require a rather massive re-organizaiton of the agricultural technological and labor system, and a level of industrial supervision that's more or less unprecedented.  A lot needs to be done about topsoil erosion as well - and beyond that, the active organic generation of soil in an accumulative manner, for stable long-term agricultural productivity.

2 - Creating the ecological infrastructure to deal with existing pollution and continuing runoff in a productive way, via wetland filters, active bio-remediation (like the canal cleaner gmoke posted about a while ago), and other eco-oriented runoff management.

3 - Managing coastline development, nutrient outflow, and littoral zones so as to maximize the health (and marine-food productive ability) of the coasts.

4 - End the use of the ocean as a garbage dump, and move towards the active removal of already-present garbage and pollutants from the ocean.  This is such a massive project that it's hard to imagine any but the most massive worldwide efforts having any impact, but it's something to think about.

Even if we give up on the existence of any true wildlife, and accept that every ecosystem is going to be a domesticated and managed affair, it's still going to take a ton of work to make even such a minimal state of affairs possible.  The way things are going now, the eco-death of global coastal zones looks possible, if not likely.

by Zwackus on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | ]
In story: In defense of tree-huggers

Re: In defense of tree-huggers
( / )
Such would, perhaps, be a reasonable course of action in areas with reasonable non-car alternatives to air transport.

However, it would also more or less end the current era of globalization for the middling masses.  This may be a good thing, in the long run, but it would also seriously mess up a lot of people's lives.

For example, I'm an expat in Japan.  Visiting home would be more or less impossible with air fare in the $7000 to $8000 range for a single trip.  Not on my salary, at any rate.

Sure, passenger liners may well revive in response, but given how awful marine diesel is, that's probably not a good idea, and anyway, most people can't afford to take a month off work for travel any more than they can afford a $6000 air ticket.

by Zwackus on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | Parent ]
In story: Easter Open Thread

Re: The Independent
( / )
That's why it's a game changer. If she's ended up in the Lake District or in the Thames, we can't leave her defenceless to the English.
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | Parent ]
In story: In defense of tree-huggers

'coming to terms with a terminal illness'
( / )
New York Times Magazine has a feature on a guy named Paul Kingsnorth who used to be a very motivated tree-hugger, but of late has taken a turn towards ambivalent resignation and acceptance that the game is over, and we have lost it:

"Everything had gotten worse," Kingsnorth said. "You look at every trend that environmentalists like me have been trying to stop for 50 years, and every single thing had gotten worse. And I thought: I can't do this anymore. I can't sit here saying: `Yes, comrades, we must act! We only need one more push, and we'll save the world!' I don't believe it. I don't believe it! So what do I do?" <...>

"I had a lot of friends who were writing about climate change and doing a lot of good work on it," he told me during a break from his festival duties. "I was just listening and looking at the facts and thinking: Wow, we are really screwed here. We are not going to stop this from happening." <...>

Hine compared coming to terms with the scope of ecological loss to coming to terms with a terminal illness. <...>

"Whenever I hear the word `hope' these days, I reach for my whiskey bottle," [Kingsnorth] told an interviewer in 2012. "It seems to me to be such a futile thing. What does it mean? What are we hoping for? And why are we reduced to something so desperate? Surely we only hope when we are powerless?" <...>

For Kingsnorth, the notion that technology will stave off the most catastrophic effects of global warming is not just wrong, it's repellent -- a distortion of the proper relationship between humans and the natural world and evidence that in the throes of crisis, many environmentalists have abandoned the principle that "nature has some intrinsic, inherent value beyond the instrumental." If we lose sight of that ideal in the name of saving civilization, he argues, if we allow ourselves to erect wind farms on every mountain and solar arrays in every desert, we will be accepting a Faustian bargain.

It's the End of the World as We Know It . . . and He Feels Fine

and yet...

Yet Kingsnorth has never intended to retreat altogether. For the past three years, he has spent a good portion of his time trying to stop a large supermarket from being built in Ulverston, in northern England. "Why do I do this," he wrote to me in an email, anticipating my questions, "when I know that in a national context another supermarket will make no difference at all, and when I know that I can't stop the trend caused by the destruction of the local economy, and when I know we probably won't win anyway?" He does it, he said, because his sense of what is valuable and good recoils at all that supermarket chains represent. "I'm increasingly attracted by the idea that there can be at least small pockets where life and character and beauty and meaning continue. If I could help protect one of those from destruction, maybe that would be enough. Maybe it would be more than most people do." <...>

... he insists that he isn't opposed to political action, mass or otherwise, and that his indignations about environmental decline and industrial capitalism are, if anything, stronger than ever. ...



by marco on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | ]

Paul Krugman speaking at the "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" forum at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York on April 16, 2014.

Krugman was one of two Noble Prize winners in the field of economics who showed up to support French economist Thomas Piketty's book on "Capital in the Twenty-First Century"



by marco on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | ]
In story: In defense of tree-huggers

Re: In defense of tree-huggers
( / )
A significant part of the problem with air travel is not just the CO2, CO, various hydrocarbons and particulates emitted, but where they are emitted - the upper atmosphere.

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | Parent ]
In story: In defense of tree-huggers

Re: In defense of tree-huggers
( / )
If the franchise were limited to engineers, you'd be right. But under the universal franchise, shutting down cheap airflight is going to cost more political capital than shutting down coal power.

(I'm assuming that the only real challenge here is the politics - the technology we have pretty well in hand. Also, I'm shooting more for "survival of industrial civilization," and less for "keeping all our coastal cities," nevermind "avoiding serious catastrophes.")

- Jake

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | Parent ]
In story: Easter Open Thread

Re: Easter Open Thread
( / )


by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | ]
In story: In defense of tree-huggers

Re: In defense of tree-huggers
( / )
I'll beg to differ. It's actually very "low-hanging", as it could be almost removed very quickly. Yes, that would not be at equal level of satisfaction, but it's possible pretty much instantly.

What you describe are major priorities. They are not, though, low-hanging fruits. Full decarbonisation of electricity production is a massive task, and one that will actually create a lot of emissions, which would thus have to be gained back (as would emissions from peaker plants).
But that'd only be the start, as to de-carbonise other activities, electricity production would have to double.

And of course, there are other GHG than CO2.

The point is not just to "keep the program busy for at least a decade". It's to have started reducing CO2 concentrations before the end of the next one. Not emissions. Concentrations.

I don't see how that would be achieved without making sacrifices in terms of availability of air travel (OK, not total disappearance, but enough that visiting my friends once in a decade would be problematic -yes, we are talking Australia, New Zealand, Laos...) during the transition period.
The alternative is to let some catastrophes happen. I believe it is the more likely scenario. We would have needed to start a massive program earlier.

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | Parent ]
In story: In defense of tree-huggers

Re: In defense of tree-huggers
( / )
My impression is that prices for flying are already at a point where video conferencing is used for pretty much everything it can be used for. There really are some things you can only do with physical co-location.

Where price increases on flying (and better rail connections) can help is in the intracontinental segment. For capital-to-capital, sleeper rail already beats plane + 1 travel day + 1 hotel night, in terms of both cost and comfort. The problem is that the rail connections into the hinterland are so bad that you end up spending a whole travel day anyway. And then you're suddenly looking at a head-to-head plane vs. sleeper rail comparison, and that's not so hot cost-wise.

- Jake

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | Parent ]
In story: Easter Open Thread

Re: The Independent
( / )
apple maps? it'll be lost then

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | Parent ]
Independent
In what may be a game changer in the Scottish independence referendum this September, the elusive Loch Ness Monster has reportedly been spotted on Apple Maps.
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | ]
The "Meh" comment was for his 'tax cut for business will reverse the Polish brain drain' idea.

by DoDo on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | Parent ]
In Spain, austerity and recession depressed passenger numbers overall, both over short and long distances. However, thanks to the opening of new high-speed lines and a new fare policy (and in spite the Santiago disaster), long-distance rail bucked that trend, and for the first time in possibly decades, it beat planes in recent months. This breaks down to strong rail domination over relations served via high-speed lines (for example 60% on the Madrid–Barcelona route) and air domination elsewhere.

Diagram from El País (hat tip to Migeru via email)

by DoDo on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | ]
Taiwan High Speed Rail was an even better example of an essentially successful system producing a financial disaster due to the BOT project structure. While it achieved virtual monopoly along Taiwan's west coast (eliminating airline links altogether and suppressing conventional rail and highway buses) and boosted urban rail development in the cities served, operator THSRC left the tunnel financially only after some debt restructuring and a change in the depreciation model (turning a profit since 2011).

Last autumn, however, management implemented a classic example of bad fare policy: citing rising energy costs, fares were raised 7–10%, only achieving public outrage and – compared to the prior months' growth trend – a similar drop in ridership (which previously almost reached the original forecast of 140,000 a day). This led to the replacement of the CEO, and now there is talk of righting the again worsening financial situation by capital reduction (to reduce debt and thus the interest load) and extending the concession period (to reduce the depreciation rate).

Source: THSRC's statistics

by DoDo on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | ]
My first extra story is on Gautrain, a limited-stop commuter rail system connecting Johannesburg, Pretoria and the airport in South Africa, the first part of which opened for the 2010 World Cup. It was a public–private partnership (PPP) project of the build-operate-transfer (BOT) type with all the typical problems: difficulty to find a contractor, the latter's difficulty to find financing, inflated ridership estimates and a concession period for the private operator much shorter than the lifetime of the infrastructure (requiring quicker return on investment), massive cost overruns and delays, so it was of course attacked as a white elephant.

As often happens with such projects, ridership on the part-opened project started out way below the inflated forecasts (100,000 passengers a day, which was particularly unrealistic given that they didn't order enough trains to carry that much...), but then rose solidly:

The operator is now struggling to add more peak hour capacity, and feasibility studies will be launched for 200 km of extensions.

by DoDo on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | ]
Security and defence policy high on the agenda at the European Council Meeting on 19/20 December

CSDP Misions of the EU
European Union has become increasingly active abroad under the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)

Why Kosovo?

by Oui on
[ Read Story | Read Comment | Parent ]

News and Views

 19-21 April 2014

by DoDo - Apr 18, 47 comments

Your take on today's news media

 18 April 2014

by In Wales - Apr 17, 60 comments

Your take on today's news media

 Easter Open Thread

by In Wales - Apr 19, 11 comments

Eggs-citing!

 Friday Open Thread

by afew - Apr 18, 7 comments

Let us remember...

Occasional Series
Click for full list


Top Diaries

In defense of tree-huggers

by Cyrille - Apr 18
19 comments

Budapest Metro Line M4

by DoDo - Apr 19
3 comments

Elections in Orbánistan

by DoDo - Apr 6
39 comments

An unfair test

by Cyrille - Apr 8
6 comments

Might INET be a Trojan Horse?

by ARGeezer - Mar 31
10 comments