Only laws will stop a ‘would-be tyrant’

The Raw Story

MSNBC’s Morning Joe admits he was wrong about democratic norms: Only laws will stop a ‘would-be tyrant’

By Travis Gettys       April 18, 2019

Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough (MSNBC)

 

The “Morning Joe” host laid out a list of norms Trump had violated and loopholes he had exploited to gather power and possibly even avoid prosecution, and he said the Constitution must be updated to keep that from happening again.

“There are people like myself that said, oh, the institutions will hold, the institutions are fine, the institutions have held thus far, but that’s because good men and women stood up at the right time, including Jeff Sessions when he recused himself,” Scarborough said. “The attorney general, (William) Barr, is now proving there are people that go in that are so craven for power that they actually will blow up constitutional norms.”

Scarborough said sweeping changes were needed to strengthen congressional checks on executive power.

“So whether you’re looking at the attorney general possibly being selected like the FBI director for 10 years, and I would say even by a supermajority of the United States Senate,” Scarborough said, “whether you’re talking about a new way to look at these security clearances, there has to be a new way to look at the security clearances.”

“We have to stop saying whatever the president says is declassified,” he continued, “because after attacking Hillary Clinton throughout an entire campaign for sending emails that might have been classified, he just blabs to the foreign minister of Russia, and just blabs. Every time he does something reckless and irresponsible that concerns the intelligence community, everybody goes, well, if the president says it’s not classified, then it’s not classified — wrong. That’s the wrong answer.”

“The president should be indicted, Democratic or Republican presidents,” Scarborough added. “You can’t shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and ride it out. You can’t be in a position where Donald Trump is, if he’s not re-elected, he might be sent to jail or indicted, but if he is re-elected, and he commits crimes to get re-elected he still can’t be indicted — wrong, and it’s wrong for the president of the United States to be a national security risk.”

Scarborough said the Constitution must be reviewed and updated to protect against unscrupulous presidents, lawmakers and other officials.

“We need a constitutional review by brilliant Republican and Democratic — conservative, liberal scholars — can look at it,” he said. “I appoint George Conway to run the whole thing. I’m dead serious, because he’s a conservative jurist, and Neal Ketyal. They get together and figure out what doesn’t work when you have somebody that is a would-be tyrant in the White House.”

It’s Time for Robert Mueller to Testify!

Esquire

William Barr Is a Complete Tool. It’s Time for Robert Mueller to Testify.

The parallels with Watergate abound.

By Charles P. Pierce       April 18, 2019

imageGETTY IMAGES

The day after five burglars in the employ of a presidential re-election campaign were caught in the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, a former cop named Tony Ulascewicz was called to a meeting on a park bench not far from the White House. Waiting for him were White House counsel John Dean and Herbert Kalmbach, the president’s personal lawyer. The two lawyers wanted Ulascewicz to be the courier—”bagman,” if you prefer, and I do—who would deliver tens of thousands of dollars worth of hush money, all in cash, to the families of the burglars.

Later, in an interview with NewsweekUlascewicz explained how such things worked in the days before the Internet and ATMs:

Dean wanted someone to distribute funds for humanitarian purposes to the burglars who were involved in this bungled affair. It wasn’t hush money at the time. I was given the first $75,000 in a room at the Statler Hilton hotel in Washington. Mr. Kalmbach brought it up in an attache case. I had nothing to put it in, but in hotel rooms they have laundry bags, so I put it in one of those. Kalmbach told me that the phone calls I made to him should not be traceable. I ended up making a lot of long-distance telephone calls by cash from pay phones. Carrying around that many quarters and dimes would kind of pull your pants down, so when I saw a busman’s money changer in a stationery store, I bought it to carry the change around.

Say what you will about the Nixon people, but they worked at their crimes. What we saw Thursday, when William Barr cemented his legacy as a hack in constitutional history, was one of the laziest attempts at a political cover-up you ever will see. Barr wasn’t even trying hard, and it showed, most graphically, when he explained what he believes the El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago’s motivation in this whole affair:

In assessing the President’s actions discussed in the report, it is important to bear in mind the context. President Trump faced an unprecedented situation. As he entered into office, and sought to perform his responsibilities as President, federal agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct before and after taking office, and the conduct of some of his associates. At the same time, there was relentless speculation in the news media about the President’s personal culpability.

US-POLITICS-INVESTIGATION-MUELLER-JUSTICE-REPORT

Barr approaches the podium, where he would proceed to hack it up. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Getty Images

Yet, as he said from the beginning, there was in fact no collusion. And as the Special Counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks. Nonetheless, the White House fully cooperated with the Special Counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims. And at the same time, the President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation. Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation.

My god, what a complete tool this man is.

First of all, there was nothing “unprecedented” about the president*’s situation. Ask all the people who got ground up in Ken Starr’s endless pursuit of Bill Clinton. (Susan McDougal might have a little something to say.)

Second, Barr seriously argued that the president* couldn’t be expected to follow the law because he was frustrated and mad. If the president* obstructed justice, well, it was the media’s fault.

Third, Barr seriously argued that a president* fired the FBI director and forced out his previous attorney general, in both cases because, in the president*’s fevered mind, they insufficiently protected him.

And, last, this president* doesn’t “sincerely believe” anything. At least, not longer than five minutes at a time. This was living, breathing, writhing corruption, right there in front of god and the world. The only slight shard of integrity to be found was the fact that Robert Mueller wasn’t there.

President Trump Attends Roundtable Discussion On Economy And Tax Reform At Trucking Equipment Company In Minnesota
Trump was mad, so NO OBSTRUCTION! Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

 

On October 20, 1973, shortly before he would be fired, Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox called a press conference to explain why he would not be taking President Nixon up on the latter’s offer to have Senator John Stennis vet the White House tapes:

I read a headline in one of the newspapers this morning that said, ‘Cox Defiant.’ But I don’t feel defiant…”I’m not looking for a confrontation. I’ve worried a good deal through my life about problems of imposing too much strain upon our constitutional institutions, and I’m certainly not out to get the President of the United States. As you all know, there has been and is evidence—not proof, perhaps, in some instances, but clearly prima facie evidence—of serious wrongdoing on the part of high Government officials, wrongdoing involving an effort to cover up other wrongdoing. It appeared that the papers, documents and recordings of conversations in the White House, including the tapes, would be relevant to getting the truth about these incidents.

I’m referring not only to the Watergate incident itself, but to other things involving electronic surveillance, break ins at a doctor’s office and the like. Last night we were told that the court order would not be obeyed, that the papers, memoranda and documents of that kind would not be provided at all. And that, instead of the tapes, a summary of what they showed would be provided. I think it is my duty as the special prosecutor, as an officer of the court and as the representative of the grand jury, to bring to the court’s attention what seems to me to be noncompliance with the court’s order.

Robert Mueller no longer works for William Barr’s Department of Justice. It’s time for Mr. Mueller to defend his own work, in public. It’s time for that.

Here’s the most crucial paragraph from the Mueller report

The Raw Story

Here’s the most crucial paragraph from the Mueller report

Cody Fenwick, Alternet         April 18, 2019

Robert Mueller testifies before Congress (screengrab)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report is a revealing and incisive document, explicating and detailing the extensive evidence uncovered in the investigation of a potential conspiracy between President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government as well as presidential attempts to obstruct justice.

And while many of these new details and the narrative they tie together are of incredible value, much of the outline of the behavior documented were already known. Trump and his campaign aides were interacting frequently with figures tied to the Russian government, gleefully accepted their help during the election, and tried — sometimes illegally and sometimes successfully — to cover it all up. As president, Trump engaged in a series of outrageous acts designed to stymie the probe, many of which could clearly be considered criminal obstruction of justice — but Mueller declined to make a prosecutorial judgment on this question.

Instead, he clearly thinks it is up to Congress to decide whether to hold Trump accountable. In arguably the most crucial paragraph of the report, the Mueller team sets forth why potential charges for Trump’s obstruction would be legitimate under the Constitution and fall to lawmakers, at least for now:

Under applicable Supreme Court precedent, the Constitution does not categorically and permanently immunize a President for obstructing justice through the use of his Article II powers. The separation-of-powers doctrine authorizes Congress to protect official proceedings, including those of courts and grand juries, from corrupt, obstructive acts regardless of their source. We also concluded that any inroad on presidential authority that would occur from prohibiting corrupt acts does not undermine the President’s ability to fulfill his constitutional mission. The term “corruptly” sets a demanding standard. It requires a concrete showing that a person acted with an intent to obtain an improper advantage for himself or someone else, inconsistent with official duty and the rights of others. A preclusion of “corrupt” official action does not diminish the President’s ability to exercise Article II powers. For example, the proper supervision of criminal law does not demand freedom for the President to act with a corrupt intention of shielding himself from criminal punishment, avoiding financial liability, or preventing personal embarrassment. To the contrary, a statute that prohibits official action undertaken for such corrupt purposes furthers, rather than hinders, the impartial and evenhanded administration of the law. It also aligns with the President’s constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws. Finally, we concluded that in the rare case in which a criminal investigation of the President’s conduct is justified, inquiries to determine whether the President acted for a corrupt motive should not impermissibly chili his performance of his constitutionally assigned duties. The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.

This paragraph is so important because it lays out why the obstruction portion of the report matters. Attorney General Bill Barr has dismissed the obstruction charges, saying that because Mueller didn’t make a determination about whether Trump committed a crime, it was up to him as the head of the Justice Department to make that call.

Mueller disagrees. He thinks it’s up to Congress — and the constitutional check to make sure “no person is above the law.”

Before he became attorney general, Barr drafted a 19-page memo arguing that a president couldn’t obstruct justice using his constitutional powers. That memo is, in all likelihood, the reason he got the job he has now. And before the report was released, Barr said that he disagrees with Mueller’s theory of obstruction of justice.

But that’s the reason Mueller was appointed. A special counsel is needed when the traditional operations of the Justice Department are not sufficient to ensure the credibility of its actions in a particularly sensitive matter. Mueller has the credibility — and the paragraph above shows why.

What the ‘Insect Apocalypse’ Has to Do With the Food We Eat

Anna Lappé talks to environmental scientist and ecologist Francisco Sánchez-Bayo about his new research on global insect decline and the under-reported connection to agriculture.

In early 2019, the journal Biological Conservation published findings from a study about global insect decline that did what few such scientific journal articles ever do: It hit the front pages of major media outlets around the world. The reason? The paper found that one-third of all insect species are in serious decline around the globe and, if trends don’t improve, we could face near mass extinction of all insects within the next century.

Civil Eats recently spoke with one of the lead authors, Francisco Sánchez-Bayo of the University of Sydney, about the implications of these findings, the underreported connection to agriculture, and what we can do about it.

While the story of environmental collapse, particularly climate change, has focused on species other than humans, it has been focused mainly on the fate of “charismatic megafauna” such as the iconic polar bear. Can you explain more about why your findings about insects, animals that often fly under the radar, are so significant?

We don’t always appreciate insects. They’re small, many are perceived as a nuisance. But their role in an ecosystem is essential; a large proportion of vertebrates depend on insects for food. To put it bluntly, most vertebrates on the planet would not be here if it weren’t for insects. There’s also the function they play in aquatic systems: Insects help purify and aerate water. Together with micro-organisms and worms, they’re vital to soil health. It’s important to realize that insects essential. If we remove them, we disrupt all life on the planet.

What surprised or alarmed you most about these findings?

When we first started, we expected to see declines. We knew that from the start. I have been following the fate of bees for years and I knew that we were seeing significant declines. We had also come across a few studies on butterflies from as far back as 20 years ago that portended decline. But what surprised us was the numbers: One-third of insects are endangered. And it’s not just butterflies and bees; it’s all groups. It’s particularly [alarming] for aquatic insects and specific groups like the dung beetles.

You compiled data from more than 70 studies around the world, and you noted that most of the data in your studies came from the global North. How confident are you that this sampling is representative of global insect decline?

We looked at 73 studies, and we are now including three more that were brought to our attention since we published our first article. The fact that most of these studies are from the Northern Hemisphere is undeniable: We were looking for long-term trends, in particular, and only Europe and North America have records that go back 100 years or more.

Unfortunately, countries with the largest biodiversity—China, Brazil, Australia, for example—don’t have good studies we could rely on. There were none in China and Australia, and only one from Brazil. But the 20 percent of studies that came from regions beyond North America and Europe, Central America, Southeast Asia, etc., all showed the same problems. And the drivers of this decline are common to all these countries no matter what region we’re talking about.

Can you say more about those drivers?

It’s a combination of habitat loss, pollution, biological factors, and climate change. But if you go deeper, you realize that the biggest drivers—habitat loss and pollution—are jointly found in agriculture expansion. So, without a doubt, agriculture is the main driver of the decline of insects, more than all the other factors combined.

What has been the response from your peers?

We’ve received hundreds of emails, saying essentially, “Yes, you are right.” Some publications have criticized us for being alarmist. We only use the word “catastrophic” once, and we use it very carefully. We chose that word deliberately: If 30 percent of insects, the largest group of animals on Earth, are in danger, that iscatastrophic. Damage from a tropical cyclone can be characterized as catastrophic, but that is localized. This is global. This is a true catastrophe.

The paper points very clearly to the damaging impacts of agricultural chemicals around the world; considering that, what has the reaction been from the chemical industry?

We haven’t had much pushback. I received one email from someone from a chemical company. He was very polite, but said that I was unfairly blaming pesticides. [He pointed out that] there are other causes: light pollution, for instance. I demonstrated he was partially right, but mostly wrong. The fact that we point to agriculture as the main culprit and to pesticides as one of the main factors is based on the evidence, examples from the literature. Understand that our study is not an experimental study that can be subject to criticism or misinterpretation. It is based on actual numbers derived from 73 studies all over the world over 30 years. If that’s not evidence enough, then tell me what is?

Let’s talk about the pesticides that you flagged as most concerning: neonicotinoids [also known by the shorthand “neonics”] and fipronil. Why are these particularly worrisome?

These insecticides have been introduced in last 25-30 years and there are features that make them different from older chemicals. First, they’re extremely toxic, particularly fipronil: it’s the most toxic ever produced to all insects and to many other organisms. Neonics are also highly toxic. They’re also soluble in water. So when they’re applied, they don’t just stay in the place you spray or in the soil. When you get that first rainwater, they go everywhere.

Because they’re soluble, they thought they could be used as systemic pesticides that you would apply at the time of planting and because there would be no drift, there would be less impact on the environment. But the risk of drift is minimal compared with the risk to insects in water: Residues from these insecticides flow into the rivers and streams and go out the sea. We know that the waters in North America are completely contaminated with neonics and the same is true in Japan, Canada, and in many other places. All the insects in these waterways are rapidly disappearing.

These insecticides have a delayed and long-term effect, which is not well understood by the authorities that regulate them. When you apply them, they eliminate certain species, which never recover—particularly species with a long life-cycle, like dragonflies. These are the insects we’re seeing disappear the quickest. These insecticides are also causing havoc among pollinators.

With many companies using these insecticides as coating on seeds—corn or oilseed rape [canola], sunflower crops, or soya beans in North America—this problem is only getting worse. And it goes against all principles of IPM [integrated pest management]. You’re using these on all seeds. When there is no evidence that there is even a pest problem, why should a whole field be contaminated? This makes no sense from a pest control and management perspective and it makes no economic sense, either.

Then there’s the basic question: What’s the point of using them? They say they boost productivity but recent studies out of the EU show that there is no gain in yield by using neonics. We are using massively enormous amounts of this insecticide for no gain whatsoever.

The EU has evaluated this and determined that coating seeds with these insecticides should be banned. These insecticides should be used only when needed, when there is a problem. The current approach—to use on all the crops, all the time, year after year—makes no sense from any perspective.

What about herbicides? You note that they’re not as toxic to insects, but they’re also really damaging.

Yes, we could have written much more about that. We were particularly struck by the studies showing the impact on wetlands. About half of all herbicides are water soluble, so they end up in wetlands and eliminate many weeds, which are an important food and breeding ground for insects.

What about the speed of decline?

Most of the declines have occurred in the last 30 years. We know that the sales of pesticides worldwide have increased exponentially in that period, mostly in underdeveloped countries in tropical areas where they spray with no controls whatsoever. Increasingly, many departments of agriculture are cutting back on the number of personnel dedicated to advising farmers on growing practices, known as extension officers. As a result, farmers don’t have pest management advice from anyone with expertise. So where do they get the advice? From chemical companies. They’re told if you have a problem, just apply this or that product. This is one reason pesticide sales have increased.

I recently met two entomologists from Oaxaca who expressed their dismay that the most recent annual meeting for professionals in their field they attended had been sponsored by Bayer, one of the largest makers of chemical pesticides in the world.

I’m not surprised. That happens everywhere.

Your study’s findings are sobering and alarming. It left me wondering, what do you think can be done to avert this impending insect apocalypse?

[Farmers] can adopt different pest-management practices. The key is to apply practical and effective solutions to eliminate pesticide use and also restore habitat across farmland. That can be done through farmer education and through policy. Governments can give incentives for using IPM to change the paradigm: Pesticides should be the tool of last resort. At the moment, many countries encourage the use of pesticides. That has to stop. Why don’t they do the same thing with IPM? Say to the farmers, “we’ll give you a tax rebate if you use less pesticides.” 

I also think banning products in some cases makes sense. Certain compounds, like DDT, should be banned for agricultural use, even if it’s still allowed in certain tropical countries to control malaria. If we took the time to educate farmers and put sensible practices into place to produce food without dependence on chemicals, the whole thing would change overnight.

I would encourage everyone to read the conclusions in the paper: we cannot have monocultures covering hundreds of square miles. We have to plant trees and other habitats for insects. Biodiversity is the only thing that will help crops be resilient and sustainable in the long term and keep balance in the soil. When we [grow diverse crops], we can reverse this trend, but that means taking on a system completely dominated by chemical corporations.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Bill Barr Is the Most Dangerous Man in America

Daily Beast

Bill Barr Is the Most Dangerous Man in America

The banality of the AG’s droning Hill testimony hides its evil purpose: to protect the president, not the rule of law.

Photo Illustration by Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast/Getty

Every great authoritarian enterprise comes to its apotheosis more from the soulless, mechanical efficiency of armies of bureaucrats and police than from the rantings of whatever Great Leader or revolutionary firebrand mounts the podium. A four-hour, spittle-flecked speech in Berlin, Havana, Moscow, or Kigali is, in the end, less consequential than the memos and slide decks of competent people given over to the service of evil.

Bad governments don’t start as nihilist terror; they’re the work of people who look like your neighbors. They build anodyne policy directives to justify the acidic erosion of the rule of law. They put the tools of government and administration to darker and darker purposes while compartmentalizing inevitable excesses in the name of political expediency.

The gray, heavy-set man who sat before two congressional committees over the last two days embodies the triumph of the banality of Washington’s bureaucratic class, a droning Kabuki performer leading the House and Senate committees through several hours of monotone testimony intended to disguise the explosive consequences of his appointment as attorney general.
William Barr’s tone was calm, but his agenda was clear: His job is to protect Donald Trump, no matter the prerogatives of Congress or any consideration of the rule of law. Bill Barr is not the attorney general of the United States. He is the Roy Cohn whom The Donald has craved since become president; an attorney general who sees his duty as serving Trump.

 

Barr won the job by writing a memo before he knew a single fact contained in the Mueller report. Its tacit and overt promises were irresistible to Trump: As attorney general, Barr would protect this president from charges of obstruction. Barr knew then, and knows now, that he has an audience of one: Donald Trump. Like Barr’s job-application memo, every word of his testimony this week screamed out obedience to the president.

Unlike Watergate, Barr’s cover-up is happening in real time and on live television, as the chief law enforcer of the United States promised without a flicker of emotion that he will redact the Mueller report as he sees fit. He dared Congress to challenge his decision to hide relevant material from their eyes and those of the American people. He refused to provide a co-equal branch of government with information to which it is legally entitled. This is a partisan political decision that will ramify into a hundred bad outcomes.

“Unless Democrats get the entire report, Barr, Trump, and Fox will write the history of this sorry affair.”

Barr is the attorney general of the Trump regime, and protection of the maximum leader is his sole mission. He is a weapon, not a servant.

Barr knew what he was doing when he claimed Wednesday that the Trump campaign was “spied on.” He was teeing up the upcoming show trials of Trump’s “enemies” in the Department of Justice and the FBI that the president’s craziest supporters in Congress, and at his rallies, have been screaming for. Together with allies like Lindsey Graham, Barr needs to not only feed Trump’s revanchist agenda, but to throw up chaff to confuse the results of the Mueller report that may somehow see the light of day.

Barr is also openly weaponizing the Department of Justice to potentially sully the future public, private, and legal testimony of members of the DOJ, FBI, and intelligence community who have seen the damning data on Trump and his claque. The goal is to intimidate anyone who would investigate Trump’s vast portfolio of corruption and obstruction of justice, both before and after he took office. It goes far, far beyond the Russia probe; it is an investigation that by its nature aims to terrify all future witnesses and whistle-blowers into silence.

By acceding to Trump’s demands for political revenge and refusing to call out the language of witch hunts, crooked cops, angry Democrats, and treasonous enemies within, Barr sent a message to every member of the DOJ and intelligence community—even before reaching his own investigative conclusion—that they can either follow the Trump line, or potentially face persecution and prosecution.

As usual, anyone counting on the Democrats not to blow it this week was disappointed. Democrats failed to hold Barr to any meaningful account in the hearings this week, asking questions in an oblique, diffident manner that mirrored Barr’s cool affect. They whispered when they needed to shout. They threw underhand softballs when they should have brought the heat. They were lulled into a trance, still believing they can shame the shameless or trap Barr and Trump with some kind of bluff.

The fact the Democrats aren’t already in court to get the full, unredacted Mueller report is exactly the kind of behavior that happens in nations slipping from democracy to authoritarianism. They think this is procedural and political, not existential. There are no brakes, no white knight in DOJ to come to the rescue, and unless Democrats get the entire report in court, Barr, Trump, and Fox will write the history of this sorry affair.

Barr exudes just enough of the comforting style of the Washington insider to quiet the fears of many in the House and Senate. He comes across as pedestrian and legalistic, bordering on dull, but he’s the most dangerous man in America.

Trump won’t save the air and water — but cities can

Yahoo News

Alexander Nazaryan       April 16, 2019 

Trump’s Trade War With China Doesn’t Look Like a Win

Bloomberg – Business

Noah Smith, Bloomberg      April 16, 2019

The Insect Apocalypse Is Coming

EcoWatch – Biodiversity

The Insect Apocalypse Is Coming: Here Are 5 Lessons We Must Learn

Scientists estimate that populations of ladybugs in the U.S. and Canada have declined by 14 percent between 1987 and 2006Pixabay

 

In a new report, scientists warn of a precipitous drop in the world’s insect population. We need to pay close attention, as over time, this could be just as catastrophic to humans as it is to insects. Special attention must be paid to the principal drivers of this insect decline, because while climate change is adding to the problem, food production is a much larger contributor.

The report, released by researchers at the Universities of Sydney and Queensland and the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences, concluded that 40 percent of insect species are now threatened with extinction, and the world’s insect biomass is declining at 2.5 percent a year. In 50 years, the current biomass of insects could be cut in half. Such a sharp decline could trigger a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems.”

We have, it appears, a lot to learn to avert the looming insect apocalypse. Here are five critical lessons.

1. Small things tend to get overlooked.

While the volume of scientific research on the threat of species extinction is growing rapidly, most of the focus has been on the declining population of fish and large mammals. Compared to larger species, insect species and their populations get very little attention. In making their report, the authors conducted a comprehensive review and found 73 historical studies of insect decline. That’s a tiny fraction of the reports written about the population loss of larger species. Yet arthropods (insects, spiders, crustaceans) account for about half of the world’s animal biomass — 17 times more than humans.

2. Small things matter.

When it comes to endangered species, large mammals get all the headlines, but insects are essential to the underlying web of life on which larger creatures depend. About 60 percent of bird species rely upon insects as a primary food source, and birds consume up to 500 million tons of insects every year. Moreover, it is estimated that 80 to 90 percent of wild plants depend upon insects for pollination. And while some insects feed off domesticated crops, other insects help to keep pest populations under control. A 2006 study estimated that insects in the U.S. provided “ecosystem services” worth $57 billion a year. These include pest control, crop pollination and serving as a vital food source for fish and small wildlife.

3. Environmental degradation is accelerating.

Climate change, pollution and the ongoing destruction of forests, wetlands, reefs and other vital habitats are taking an ever-increasing toll on nature. And it’s not just insects; environmental degradation is accelerating and rapidly diminishing non-human populations, including birds, fish and large undomesticated mammals. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that wildlife populations, on average, have declined 60 percent since 1970. The International Union for Conservation of Nature now classifies 26,000 species as threatened with extinction, and leading scientists publicly warn that a “sixth mass extinction” has commenced.

4. It’s not just our greenhouse gas emissions …

No one should underestimate the impact that rising greenhouse gas emissions are having on the web of life, but the authors of the insect report indicate that the three largest drivers of insect depopulation are, in order of importance: 1) habitat loss attributable to agriculture and urbanization; 2) pollution, mainly caused by pesticides and fertilizers and; 3) the introduction of invasive species. Climate change, which many believe is the largest driver of ecological ruin, ranked only fourth as a driver of insect decline.

5. … It’s us.

The principal drivers of insect extinction have a common denominator. Simply put, the insect decline, in one form or another (including climate change), is attributable to humans. Our growing numbers and our appetites are driving insects to extinction. There is no letup in sight. World population, presently 7.6 billion, is expected to reach nearly 10 billion by mid-century, and the world’s middle class is expected to rise at an even faster rate. Our demand for food, and particularly our appetite for meat products, is leaving less room for other creatures, including insects.

Humans already use a land mass about the size of South America to produce crops for consumption and an area nearly the size of Africa to feed our livestock. Add in the pesticides and fertilizers that we depend upon to boost crop yields, and it’s no wonder that insect populations are suffering mightily.

The authors of the report on insect loss warned that, “Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades.” Curbing our reliance on pesticides and fertilizers could reduce the loss of insects, but it’s our ever-growing need for higher crop yields that has given rise to their use in the first place. Given enough time and capital investments, the farmers of the world might be able to adopt sustainable farming practices without reducing crop yields, but we may not have the luxury of time.

To avoid insect apocalypse, we need to reduce the size of our agricultural footprint. That should begin by preventing runaway population growth and the unsustainable food demand that would go with it. We should increase our support for family planning programs that help to prevent unplanned pregnancies at home and abroad. At present, nearly 40 percent of the pregnancies in the world are unintended. We should also commit to reducing our meat consumption, particularly beef. Meat-based diets require the use of far more land and water and result in much bigger environmental impacts—from greenhouse gas emissions to land degradation—than plant-based diets do.

If insects head toward precipitous decline and extinction, humans can’t be far behind. We need to advance our thinking about insects, their importance and what can be done to save them.

Robert Walker is the president of the Population Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit educating the public about the environmental implications of population growth, and advocating for reproductive health and rights.

This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute, and originally published by Truthout.

Harnessing the water power of Mother Nature

Global Citizen

Harnessing the power of Mother Nature 💡

This Water Turbine Constantly Provides Power All Day

Harnessing the power of Mother Nature 💡

Posted by Global Citizen on Monday, March 25, 2019

Austin, Texas community of tiny homes for the homeless.

CNN posted an episode of The Good Stuff. 

April 12, 2019

This nonprofit created a village of tiny homes and RVs to help permanently solve homelessness in Austin, Texas. But more than just providing homes, the group is fostering communities and providing job opportunities to the men and women who live there. https://cnn.it/2Ii6Tev

A suburbia for the homeless exists and they can live there forever

This nonprofit created a village of tiny homes and RVs to help permanently solve homelessness in Austin, Texas. But more than just providing homes, the group is fostering communities and providing job opportunities to the men and women who live there. https://cnn.it/2Ii6Tev

Posted by CNN on Friday, April 12, 2019