Human history is speeding up. Seismic events that mark a before and an after in the world system are happening with unprecedented regularity. The Covid-19 pandemic, the Ukraine war and the genocide of Gaza all in the past few years. In much of the world, politics has become more volatile, at times more violent - and living standards for the majority are falling. We know we live in a time of historical flux.
But geologic time, our planet’s deep history, is also speeding up - and alarmingly so. For about the past 12,000 years - pretty much all of known human history - we’ve lived in the Holocene geological era. It has provided an unusually stable climate in which human society expanded dramatically. It gave us our assumptions about nature: the pattern of the seasons, the migration of animals and the temperature. But that era is over and it is moving to something else rapidly.
We’ve known this for 16 years now. In 2008, the August Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London published a report presenting evidence that the Holocene was over and we were now in an era “without close parallel” in the previous many millions of years.
One of the key factors in bringing on these tremendous, literally epochal, shifts is the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, leading to warmer air and water temperatures. For almost all of the Holocene, the concentration was around 260-280 parts per million. That’s the pre-industrial level. In 2008, it was already 385. The forecast for 2024 is 424. Up and up it goes.
Geological history is moving at an unprecedented pace. Human history sits on top of that underlying planetary history. Humanity makes its own history, but not in circumstances of its own choosing.
Yesterday, we reached a new milestone in these circumstances. The European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service reported that the previous 12 months had been more than 1.5 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels.
Just nine short years ago, the world’s governments agreed in Paris that they would limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees. “1.5 to stay alive” was the mantra. They failed in record time.
The latest science suggests that at 1.5 degrees of warming major tipping points - thresholds that trigger large, accelerating and likely irreversible changes, like the melting of the Greenland ice sheet - become “likely”. Our climate, nature, the environment - whatever we call it - is set to change a lot and disrupt harvests, supply chains, political systems and our assumptions about the world.
But, counter to the failed slogan for the failed COP process for world leaders, we will stay alive. Humanity will continue to exist on this less stable, less understood and rapidly changing planet we call home.
The end isn’t nigh, it has already happened. We have left one epoch and a new one is being established. Dramatic change is coming: people, agriculture and cities will move. But one important truth will ring out: the system of rule that puts the wealth and power of a tiny few ahead of not only the material comfort and the dignity of the vast majority but the very planetary systems on which we all rely cannot continue. It must be overthrown and replaced.
Humanity is on a bumpy road - and it will get bumpier still - but however dangerous and frightening that road becomes, we can navigate it - and even enjoy the ride - only if popular, democratic forces forcibly take the driving seat.
It’s not 1.5 to stay alive. It never was. The people must rise, together, to be truly alive.
Yesterday, Pakistanis went to the polls to vote in their general election. Voting was hampered by the suspension of mobile services and the killing of at least nine people in attacks by armed groups.
These are the first elections since Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is now in prison and barred from standing in the elections, was removed from power in 2022 and long after the constitutionally-mandated deadline for holding an election after the dissolution of the National Assembly.
On the invitation of progressive forces in the country, the Progressive International was on the ground to accompany the electoral process. Our delegation visited the operations of PI member Haqooq-e-Khalq Party (HKP), which is upsetting the material basis of the long-standing politics of clientelism, where parties buy votes from the community through “brokers” paid to act and bribe on their behalf. The party operates two free health clinics, five vocational schools, and several public centres in the working class Lahore constituency they are contesting — institutions built over the course of the past year with the overwhelming participation of the local working class community.
We will report more on the elections in the coming days as results are confirmed.
On 5 February, MEPs on the European Parliament’s Employment Committee sent an official letter to President Roberta Metsola, urging the withdrawal of lobbying badges belonging to the company’s representatives, effectively barring them from the Parliament's corridors.
This comes after Amazon's repeated attempt to evade democratic scrutiny. Amazon declined an invitation to participate in a hearing, reportedly saying "it was not a good day for them". In 2021, Amazon already refused to testify at a previous hearing. In December last year, it also cancelled a visit by an MEP delegation to its warehouses in Germany and Poland on short nice.
The news comes as more strikes are planned next week in the UK against Amazon by warehouse workers.
Defend Harsh Mander On 2 February 2024, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation conducted raids on the residence of PI Council member Harsh Mander and the offices of the Centre for Equity Studies, a research institute that he founded. In an urgent statement, over 250 political figures from India condemned the attack on Mander as a “vindictive witch-hunt.”
Mander, a former civil servant and a rights-based activist has been subject to intimidation by multiple investigative agencies of the Indian government, including the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Income Tax Department, and the Enforcement Directorate. Despite repeated police action, a concrete charge is yet to be presented in a court of law.
Over the last few years, the Progressive International has repeatedly issued alerts regarding India’s lurch toward “full-fledged fascism.” Today, civil society activists languish in jail without trial and the ‘Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act’ meant to curb terrorism is used to routinely imprison dissenters. Media and civil society groups have been subject to persistent lawfare, under the guise of income tax violations and sedition charges.
These anti-democratic attacks are set to ramp up ahead of general elections which will kick off in April 2024. Less than two weeks ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched his re-election campaign with the inauguration of a new multimillion-dollar Hindu temple in Ayodhya upon the ruins of the Babri Masjid Mosque, a site of one of the darkest anti-Muslim riots in India’s history.
Harsh Mander’s work stands in direct opposition to Modi’s agenda. He founded and leads a national campaign called Karwan-e-Mohabbat or 'Caravan of Love' in solidarity with the victims of pogroms in India which regularly documents and exposes instances of the ruling government encouraging violence based on religion — and attempts to mobilize citizens to combat hate speech. His work embodies, not only staunch opposition to Hindu nationalism, but a steadfast commitment to upholding the rights of the country’s most marginalised communities.
Thousands of Haitians took to the streets this week in massive demonstrations demanding the resignation of unconstitutional prime minister Ariel Henry. Henry was invited to take power by the US and other western countries after the July 2022 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.
According to a December 2022 agreement, elections were to have taken place and a transfer of power achieved by 7 February. That deadline has been and gone. The legislature sits empty as all the terms of the country’s senators have expired. Elections scheduled for 2019 and 2023 have not taken place.
Rather than respect the Haitian people’s desire for a democratic transition, Henry continues to push for a US-backed deployment led by Kenyan police officers to combat the gangs that have mushroomed in the country.
On Thursday, 8 February, Colombian trade unions and popular movements mobilised in the capital Bogotá and cities across the country to defend the right to association and the popular government of President Gustavo Petro. The protests are a response to the “institutional rupture” provoked by outgoing right-wing attorney general Francisco Barbosa in his last week in office. Barbosa attempted to oust President Petro by criminalising political participation by trade unions. Popular forces rallied to demand the Supreme Court choose a new attorney general after many weeks of delays.
Changing Forest 5 (2009), by Madelaine Georgette, from a series of artworks looking at changes in forest, primarily deforestation due to climate change, the introduction of new species of flora and fauna, and invasions of insect species.