Huge Push Begins Tomorrow to Bring Snowden Home as a Hero, Not a Traitor

September 13, 2016 | Josie Walesedward-snowden
(ANTIMEDIA) The United States government formally charged whistleblower Edward Snowden in June of 2013 after he leaked information about the NSA’s PRISM Surveillance program, proving American citizens were — and still are — being spied on by their own government. The former CIA contractor was granted asylum in Russia, where he still lives in an undisclosed location, facing charges of theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified communications intelligence.

Motherboard reports Snowden is about to see a huge push for support on Wednesday, when “the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other prominent human rights organizations will launch a formal campaign asking President Obama to pardon Edward Snowden for revealing the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance programs.”
The campaign was arranged to launch just two days before Oliver Stone’s Snowden hits theaters. Stone believes the movie will help people understand the severity of the federal government’s invasion of privacy.

Seeing NSA agents use dramatized versions of PRISM, which could pull private data directly from the servers of Apple, Google, Facebook, and several other major tech companies, and X-Keyscore, a sort of hybrid search/spy engine for people, is far more visceral for most people than reading another Glenn Greenwald scoop or Snowden interview,” Motherboard noted.

Snowden’s lawyer, Ben Wizner, who also serves as director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, has high hopes for the campaign.“We are going to be doing both a mass signature campaign around the world and trying to get prominent individuals and organizations to join our call to President Obama to pardon Snowden before he leaves office,” he told Motherboard.

Facebook and Twitter accounts have been set up for the campaign, and (currently password-protected) is slated to go live on Wednesday, collecting signatures in support of the pardon.

This will be the second petition to the Obama administration on Snowden’s behalf. A petition by We the People that reached 160,000 signatures was addressed in July of 2015 by Lisa Monaco, the President’s Advisor on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism:“

“If he felt his actions were consistent with civil disobedience, then he should do what those who have taken issue with their own government do: Challenge it, speak out, engage in a constructive act of protest, and — importantly — accept the consequences of his actions. He should come home to the United States, and be judged by a jury of his peers — not hide behind the cover of an authoritarian regime. Right now, he’s running away from the consequences of his actions.”

According to Wizner, that’s not going to happen anytime soon:

“Unless the government is willing to consider charging him with something appropriate, there’s not going to be a trial if we have anything to say about it. That doesn’t mean there couldn’t be some other kind of agreement. We think the proper response to Edward Snowden shouldn’t be what the punishment should be, it should be how to thank him. And until that’s the case, he is living safely where he is.”


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ISIS survives largely because Turkey allows it to: the evidence

The Turkish cover up for shooting down a Russian bomber? A report by David L. Phillips, Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights

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10505328_10154729840000012_6173827095010968907_n Kurdish (YPJ) frontline troops

The real frontline confronting ISIS is not US or French bombers (the latter currently targeting Raqqa, a city with 140,000 civilians, who are virtual prisoners of ISIS) but the Kurds of Iraq and northern Syria. Just over a week ago the combined Kurd forces, under the command of the Yezidis, liberated Sinjar from ISIS. For the Kurds, their war is not just about defeating ISIS, but about creating their own autonomous region – a region that would link all the Kurd cantons. This will not be easy, especially as the Iraq-based Kurds (Peshmerga) are allied with Iran and benefit from US support (nor are the Iraqi Kurds in any hurry to secede from Iraq). But the largest hurdle to an autonomous Kurdistan is Turkey, which not only has rekindled its war with the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party), but has done everything it can over the…

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A prize for Edward Snowden

But will he be able to travel to Norway?

by Thomas Hylland Eriksen

A few months ago, it was as if everybody wanted to be Charlie (Hebdo). This gesture was laudable enough (if not always credible), but who wants to be Edward Snowden? After two years, the world’s most important whistleblower is still in Moscow. His chances of returning to a normal life remain slim, in spite of the recent ruling, in the US court of appeals, that the NSA’s storage of telephone metadata is indeed illegal.

Edward Snowden revealed how US and UK spy agencies defeat internet privacy and security.  An honorable act.

Edward Snowden revealed how US and UK spy agencies defeat internet privacy and security. An honorable act.

Western politicians confronted with the Snowden affair typically respond in a vague and equivocal way. If pressed, they might say that their country does not condone mass surveillance, perhaps adding that it is not in their mandate to engage directly with Snowden’s situation. However, they are wrong on both counts. Just as they criticise rights violations in other countries, they can and should support Snowden, especially now that even a high legal authority in the US has indirectly confirmed that he was right to blow the whistle. Moreover, objectionable forms of surveillance do take place, if not on the same scale as in the US, in European countries as well.

The arguments in favour of mass surveillance are surprisingly weak. As Jesselyn Radack, one of Snowden’s lawyers, recently pointed out, both the Boston bombing and the Charlie Hebdo massacre provide excellent arguments against surveillance. The authorities were unable to prevent either of these events, although they had repeatedly been warned about the perpetrators – not because of advanced surveillance methods, but through human intelligence. ‘When you keep all and sundry under surveillance, you become lazy,’ she says. ‘You stop doing the detective work and trust the algorithms to do the job.’

Recently, a Norwegian cultural academy decided to award its annual prize to Edward Snowden. The Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson Academy is named after a significant Norwegian writer, playwright and public intellectual. Bjørnson (1832–1910) was not only in favour of Norwegian independence (achieved in 1905) and democratic values, but he also emphasised the importance of the freedom of thought and speech, the value of disagreement and the need for civil society to be independent of state powers. He was, among many other things, a strong supporter of Alfred Dreyfus.

The famous norwegian author Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson was a strong advocate for freedom of speech and the right to be anonymous. Public domain / the National Library of Norway. Ca 1903

The famous norwegian author Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson was a strong advocate for freedom of speech and the right to be anonymous. Public domain / the National Library of Norway. Ca 1903

The Bjørnson Academy, of which I am a board member, awards its annual prize to a person whom we see as a strong representative of the values for which Bjørnson became famous and controversial in his time. This year, the board was unanimous in deciding that surveillance should be the topic of its annual seminar, and that Edward Snowden should be offered the prize.

In the press release sent to the Norwegian media, we explained that Snowden’s interventions did not just concern personal integrity and illegitimate state power, but were also directly relevant for the freedom of expression. If everything that is written or spoken can potentially be traced and stored by the political authorities, the free exchange of ideas will suffer owing to possible sanctions from the state. Threats to the freedom of expression may have been more visible in Bjørnson’s day, but they were less insidious and ubiquitous than today.

There is only one minor problem with the Bjørnson prize. Snowden was happy to receive it, and we duly invited him to come to Molde, Norway on 5 September for the award ceremony. However, since he is still considered a criminal by the US, his security would have to be guaranteed by the Norwegian government. We therefore wrote a letter to Prime Minister Erna Solberg (Conservative Party) and Minister of Justice Anders Anundsen (Progress Party) asking them to ensure free passage for Snowden to Norway. Several lawyers have considered the case and concluded that it would be legally possible for Norway to allow Snowden to enter the country without being extradited to the USA.

Both government parties have for years (not least in recent debates concerning Muslims and Islam) been staunch defenders of the freedom of expression. The populist Progress Party has also always been critical of the state’s tendency to interfere unduly with the lives of citizens. Unfortunately, only politicians from the Socialist Left (SV) have so far supported our demand. The government has not yet responded to our letter, but it was sent only on 1 June. We are optimistic for now, hoping that the Norwegian government will confirm loud and clear that it is uncompromising in its support of the freedom of expression and citizens’ personal integrity, and that it will not let its relationship with other countries stand in the way of the fundamental principles of democracy.

From Eriksen’s blog
First published, with a slightly different title, on Open Democracy.

Thomas Hylland Eriksen is professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo. His fields of research include identity, nationalism, globalisation and identity politics. Eriksen finished his dr. polit.-degree in 1991, and was made professor in 1995, at the age of 33. He is a former editor of the journal Samtiden and in the editorial board of Gateavisa, a Norwegian newspaper-like magazine with roots in anarchism and a liberal culture that rebelled against the authorities.

Black against black in South Africa

The Xenophobia turmoil in South Africa in recent weeks has cost at least 7 people their lives, as well as one child. There are black immigrants from other African countries which are under attack, harassed, discarded, beaten and killed. Homes of immigrants and immigrant shops have been vandalized and robbed. In Umlazi south-west of Durban, the biggest township in KwaZulu-Natal and the second biggest in South Africa after Soweto, a shop was petrol bombed with two Ethiopians inside on April 10. One of them died shortly after arriving in hospital.


Photographs of Mozambican national Emmanuel Sithole being attacked while pleading for his life were published in the Sunday Times on April 20, and sparked a nationwide reaction. The man stabbing Sithole is among those arrested.

More than 300 people have been detained by police. Domestic and Asians have so far not been targeted, with an exception of one episode on Friday where two South Africans tried to break into a Pakistani owned shop in Soweto. The two culprits were rescued by the police after they were apprehended by local residents. They had already been doused with petrol when they were rescued, according to the South African Times Live. Another brutally murder took place early Sunday morning. A man from Mozambique were harassed and stabbed in broad daylight with witnesses around, including a photographer from the Sunday Times. Three have been arrested and will be taken to court already on Tuesday 21. The police is chasing a fourth culprit.

The worst unrest have been in Isiphingo, a suburb just south of Durban, where now about 7,000 immigrants have sought refuge in official and police controlled areas. The turmoil has spread further to Soweto and Johannesburg. Durban, Johannesburg and Soweto is respectively 2nd, 3rd and 4th largest city in South Africa, after Cape Town. Durban is a popular tourist city on South Africa’s west coast by the Indian Ocean and is traditionally KwaZulu-Natal area.

More than thousand African immigrants have fled their homes in black townships around the eastern port city of Durban since xenophobic attacks and looting erupted.

In a bid to try to quell the anti-immigrant violence, soldiers were Tuesday 21th deployed to volatile areas in Johannesburg and in KwaZulu-Natal.

This is the largest anti-immigration turmoil in South Africa since 2008, when 62 people were killed and hundreds injured during the little more than two weeks unrest. One person from Mozambique were also burned alive. The case was dismissed in 2010, although a witness has been able to point out two of the perpetrators for the Times Live. The witness says that police never came back to the crime scene for questioning and investigation. One of the designated still stays in the same area. The investigation is summarized on one page only.

The riots started after KwaZulu-Natal King Goodwill Zwelithini on March 23 held a very controversial speech that has been reported to the South African National Defence Union as a violation of the rights to dignity, security, life, movement and residence, which are grounded in the Bill of Rights. The South African Human Rights Commission is now probing the Zulu kings utterances as hate speech.

After an introduction where the king explains that he can not wait for politicians to speak out for their concerns about votes, he took strong advocate against illegal immigrants.

“(…) we talk about people who do not want to listen, who do not want to work,  who are thieves, child rapists and housebreakers. People who are lazy and do not want to plough the fields. When people look at them, they will say let us exploit the nation of idiots. As I speak, you find their unsightly goods hanging all over our shops, they dirty our streets. We can not even recognize which shop is which, there are foreigners everywhere. (…) We ask foreign nationals to pack their belongings and go back to their countries.”

President Jacob Zuma shares a light moment with King Goodwill Zwelithini, who is South Africa’s richest tribal leader. (

President Jacob Zuma shares a light moment with King Goodwill Zwelithini, who is South Africa’s richest tribal leader. (

At first the Zulu king tried to refute allegations that he had spoken critically about immigration until his speech was published and transcribed by media. After much pressure he held a new speech on the famous Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Monday 20 April. The stadium is named after the politician and former secretary general of the South African Communist Party and is a landmark in Durban. In this speech, he referred to the violence as vile and defended himself against accusations of his previous comments had led to these actions. “We need to make sure no more foreigners are attacked. We must stop these vile acts” said Zwelithini in his speech to thousands of supporters. Nevertheless hostile parts of the audience sang songs calling for immigrants to leave the country and the booed an earlier speaker who said foreigners had the right to live in South Africa.

Last week 5,000 people rallied in Durban to protest against xenophobia. Among the slogans were “Down with Xenophobia” and “A united Africa“, whilst there were confrontations between police and Xenophobe’s elsewhere in the city. There have also been several confrontations between police and Xenophobe’s  elsewhere in the country, not at least in Johannesburg. Police have used water cannons, shock grenades and rubber bullets to scatter the mob.

The controversy around the Cecil Rhodes statue in Cape Town is also considered to have fueled the riots. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe had his first official visit to South Africa in twenty years on the 8th of April where he held a 45 minutes long non-scripted speech, not the planned 10 minutes which was allotted to him and South African President Jacob Zuma. Besides accusing the West of having killed Libyan Muammar Ghadaffi and Iraq Saddam Hussein solely to gain access to more oil, he referred duly to the Cecil Rhodes statue in Cape Town. The bronze statue was torn down the day after the speech, after a month of protests by city students. Opposition Party EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) has taken the blame for several of the vandalizing of the Rhodes sculptures in both Cape Town and Pretoria.

Mugabe was elected as chairman of the African Union (AU) January this year, where he immediately focused on climate change, Ebola and improved infrastructure, beside clearly saying that African wealth belongs to Africa and not “imperialists and colonialists.” He has in crass terms condemned these “anti-African” tendencies after the riots spread in South Africa, with reference to how Zimbabwe was an important supporter of South Africans during the apartheid era.

President Zuma condemned the unrest in the country in a speech in Parliament last Thursday. Some would say he spent a long time to make such a condemnation, especially since his eldest son Edward immediately (in March) gave his full support to the Zulu king’s initiative in an interview with News24. “We need to be aware that as a country we are sitting on a ticking time bomb that them [foreigners] taking over the country.”

The reason why I am saying that is because some of the foreigners are working for private security companies where they have been employed for cheap labour. These companies are running away from complying with South African labour laws,” Edward continued. “Foreigners need to leave the country.” He also accused foreigners fuelling South Africas drug problems and that foreigners bring with them weapons. Unlike King Goodwill Zwelithini, he included also white and Asians.

President Jacob Zuma is Zulu himself and the ANC’s close connection and support from the always leopard cladded Zulu king is no secret and is often noted.
Although extreme poverty ($ 1.25 pr. Day) is now down to just over 20%, it constitutes around 12 million people of the populous South Africa . Relative poverty constitutes approximately 45%. Unemployment is at 24%. Immigrants are estimate to be 2 million says official figures, while other estimates says 5 million. It is also estimated that nearly 1 million of these are economic and political refugees from Zimbabwe. Only 4% of workers in South Africa are foreigners and in most cases they contribute to the economy with the rental of premises, adding taxes and employment of local South Africans. Foreigners who operates businesses employ more South Africans than South African businesses, according to a study of Migrating for Work Research Consortium based on data from Statistics South Africa.

Although much of the anger among many black South Africans still are directed against whites and their control over great wealth and lands, are remarks and reflections corresponding to Edward Zuma’s not entirely uncommon in South Africa today, although condemnations of last week violence has been massive, not at least on social media.

Concerning crime and foreigners, it is myths that are spread. According to Statistics South Africa’s National Victims of Crime Survey’s study released in 2014, immigrants are only responsible for 5% of crime.

South Africa is the richest country in Africa, only beaten by Nigeria (Nigeria has approximately 152 million inhabitants while South Africa with is 20% bigger land, host 54 million people.) South Africa is strongly affected by corruption. At least ZAR 700 billion (equivalent to $58 billions) has gone to corruption over the past 20 years, according to figures published April 15th this year by the Institute of Internal Auditors (ZAR = South African Rand). In addition there are repeatedly huge economical scandals. Zuma is the world’s 4th highest paid president and his cabinet costs annually ZAR 1.6 billion ($132 millions).

The various welfare schemes has increased from around ZAR 4 million in 1994 to 16.3 million in 2014, though discussed as unsustainable, even by President Zuma. Less than  three million people receive any social security in South Africa which include 1.1 million pensioners, with the exception of child support received by 11.5 million. This stands in stark contrast to the president’s resident Nklandas upgrade in 2010 that was stipulated to cost ZAR 145 million, but ended up with a price tag of 100 million more.

The riots are directed against immigrants, but it is reasonable to assume that the overall economic situation is the real causative factor. Criminologist Johan Burger from the renowned think tank Institute for Security Studies (frequently used among others by the EU and Norwegian foreign department) also believe that the spread of the unrest suggest that it is not just spontaneous. “The attacks being sustained and spreading into more urbanised areas creates a suspicion that it is being organised.

— Ole A. Seifert

Will Water Drown in Climate Change Issues?

Water is happiness, illus.Approximately 71% of the planet is covered with water. Of all the water on earth only 2.5% is fresh water, and only 0.1% is accessible for us humans. Almost 70% of water consumption occurs in agriculture, 23% is used in industry and the rest in domestic consumption. Water means life. Without water we cannot exist. Water scarcity has been long noticed, albeit not in my home country, Norway, and this scarcity has been discussed thoroughly in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). 

Groundwater is declining worldwide and is emptied faster than it can replenish itself.

It has been commonly been agreed upon that 768 million people lack direct access to water but a study from the United Nations in 2013 suggests that the numbers could be far more dramatic, with an entire 2 billion people having no access to clean and safe water. According to another study (Onda et al., 2012 study), the number of people who do not have satisfactory access to water is even greater, probably in the order of 3.5 billion or roughly ½ of the world’s population. And more than 1/3 of the population, 2.5 billion people, do not have access to satisfactory sanitation.

Limited Resource
Fresh water is a limited resource. We do not get more water, even as it completes its cycle. On the contrary, since we pollute fresh water and fail to clean it sufficiently, only about 70% of the water we use for domestic and industrial purposes can be cleaned and reused.

Certainly, we have solutions, techniques and technologies to conserve water, but it goes slowly, very slowly, in large part because of the major economic interests at stake. Everything is not black, however, if we can get a serious grip on the situation. First and foremost, we must get this on the agenda and sensitize everyone from the consumers to the politicians and decision makers. A shift to less water-intensive products and production, including the energy sector, is crucial. The longer we wait, the less water we’ll have for a steadily growing population.

world-hungerScarcity: life and death
Water is a driving force in nature. Without water, there would be and there will be no life as we know it. Although we do not even notice the water issue in Norway, this is a growing global problem. São Paulo, Brazil, with its 20 million inhabitants, is now in danger of water rationing. California, the world’s fifth largest producer of crops is in its fourth year of severe drought and in January of this year topped drought statistics since record keeping began. World population increases as does the personal consumption of water. We do not manage to cleanse as much as we pollute. Our consumption of freshwater has tripled over the last fifty years and the need for water increases by 64 billion cubic meters annually. One cubic meter is equal to 1000 liters.

Access to clean water is also a major cause of illness and death in the developing world where 80% of these figures, including three million deaths each year, is attributed to water shortages.

Agriculture and cattle operation
Property dedicated to agriculture currently covers 11% of the world’s land surface yet it consumes 70% of all fresh water. Here is an area in which much water can be conserved. Meanwhile, it is among the worst in terms of helping to conserve. Not only has it embedded itself into people’s lifestyles and habits, but there are major actors — and of course all of the appurtenant lobbying — who want to keep the status quo because so much money is at stake. No one likes others telling them what to eat, or what they should be dressed in. For it is here that we can retrieve the most when it comes to agriculture. One kilogram of beef consumes 15,500 liters of water before it reaches the consumer. It corresponds to approximately 2,400 liters for a burger. And that becomes a tremendous amount of water during a year. This is referred to as Virtual Water; that is, the total water math for any product, or what it costs in water to produce.

I will not go into too many individual products and their water consumption, but some are really worth looking at, since we need to save water and consequently also change our consumption. 2/3 of Norway’s water consumption, i.e. Virtual Water, is happening abroad, according to the research site, so it is safe to say that the world’s water problems also affect us in the highest degree.

I Have a Beef with Beef
Beef is both a climate offender and a water baddie. No other meat comes close in terms of water consumption. One kilogram of pork requires 4,800 liters of water, poultry production “only” 3,900. Meat production has risen by incredible 600% since 1950, when the world’s population was at 2.5 billion people. If there is a positive in this picture it is that poultry, which consumes the lowest amount of Virtual Water, has increased the most. Still, about 300 million cows are slaughtered annually. When one looks at such numbers, it makes sense to try to adhere to a meat-free Monday, an idea which the UN has promoted for several years. Admittedly, it is the greenhouse gas emissions of methane and not water consumption which has been the focus of Meatless Monday but why not help two problems at once?

Cotton, hemp and bamboo
Let stick with farming a little more. The garment industry scores high on the list of the ten most water-intensive industries. Cotton takes up between 2.5 and 5% of arable land, but has a huge consumption of pesticides, around 16% of all that are used worldwide. In addition to pesticides are all the chemicals used in the processing. Organic cotton production represents only a small fraction of the total, around 1%. But we are talking about water, and this is where it gets really interesting. It takes 11,000 liters of water to produce one kilogram of cotton (on average a pair of jeans weighs about 800 grams). 80% of the cotton grown is used for clothing. How can we change this picture? The answer is as simple as it is difficult: We have alternatives to cotton! The problem is that the cotton industry is is an immensely powerful lobby. The good alternative is not polyester (which already has a large market share in the garment industry) or other energy-intensive artifical fibers which are based on oil, but something as simple as hemp and bamboo. For one kilogram of finished processed hemp, it only takes 2150 liters of water, mostly in the form of rainwater, not irrigation. These numbers are about the same for bamboo. Unfortunately there has been no appreciable development in production methods for hemp during the last fifty years or so, much of this due to the ban which many countries have had. Hemp can grow almost everywhere, from the Arctic to the equator. The fibers are also significantly stronger than cotton, which is good for consumers, but not for profit, since hemp-products are more durable and do not need to be replaced as often. Hemp requires no pesticides, but it does need some fertilizer.

Bamboo is another good alternative to cotton and features some absolutely unrivaled qualities in garment production. There are more than 1400 different bamboo species, but it is the Moso Bamboo (Phyllostachys Edullis) that is used in garments. Thankfully, this is not a species that is popular among the endangered pandas. Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world and can grow up to one meter per day. In addition, it requires no fertilizer or pesticides. Bamboo grows without irrigation is a very hardy plant. It can grow in most parts of the world.

Bamboo plants develop an antibacterial agent, Bamboo Kun, which makes it almost 100% resistant to fungus as well as repellent to insects — it simply works as a pesticide in itself. Not only that, it acts as an antibacterial agent in clothings too.

Bamboo clothings are soft and can be compared to the feel of silk on the skin. The first time I bought some bamboo socks, the saleswoman boasted that I could wear them 5 days on a row without them smelling. I must admit that it was not an appealing thought to wear the same socks for five days, even knowing that it would be saving water, but in connection with this article, I had to test it out. It was difficult dealing with the mental barrier, but her claim was true. After five days there was no more odor than normal, i.e., it was the equivalent of wearing cotton socks for one day.

In Costa Rica, a small country in Central America — one with the largest acreage of nature reserves by percentage, they have figured out that the use of bamboo for housing construction will reduce the use of arable land with about 12% compared to the construction by ordinary wood and just takes 1/8 of energy consumption compared to cement and 1/50 of that consumption when compared to steel. In many contexts bamboo is as strong as steel, which was proved by the earthquake of 7.5 on the Richter scale in 1991. The houses built with bamboo —built for a large-scale social housing project which raised the amount of affordable housing for the poor, located in the epicenter of the earthquake, were undamaged, while other nearby buildings lay in ruins. Bamboo can also be used for reinforcement of concrete and hemp can be used to make “hempcrete”; old natural materials and techniques that can have a renaissance and save both water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Bamboo and hemp have an incredible number of useful characteristics, I have mentioned only a very few. They are also incredibly helpful plants in the larger perspective of climate change, including sucking up CO2, but there is too much to mention here and now.

Paper and steel
Both hemp and bamboo can be used to produce paper, another one of the top ten water-intensive industries. Here there will be much to gain from a larger perspective of climate change, not least of which would be shrinking the CO2 footprint. Both, but mostly hemp, have been used in paper production for over two thousand years, long before paper from cellulose of wood took the lead role.

Steel production comes just after the paper and textile industry on the list of water-intensive industries.

Climate Smart Agriculture
As mentioned above, agriculture consumes a huge amount of water. Cattle farming is mentioned as particularly water intensive — and water polluting, but what about agriculture? This is an area of great savings potential but it is one that requires restructuring. Today, small-scale farmers feed 70% of the world’s population. Although irrigation systems have improved, we should look at new methods and techniques to reduce water consumption further. The future is in developing methods that are substantially less water demanding than traditional agriculture. 


The Omega Garden system rotates the plants around a bulb. They claim that it yields three to five times the weight of plant per watt of electricity used, compared to conventional flat systems. Their commercial carousel system produces as much as a 1500 square foot greenhouse in only 150 square feet, and their LED system just sips electricity. (Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building)

Hydroponic cultivation is amazingly – almost unbelievably– water conservative. It is not unusual to have a 70-90% reduction in water, while at the same time yielding an increase at a corresponding rate. Hydroponic yields have been ten times as large as the conventional farming of certain plants including tomatoes in the US and Canada. With this technique herbicides and pesticides are avoided and therefore end products are cleaner and safer for the consumer. The plants also grow substantially faster. The disadvantage is that it is more labor intensive than modern mechanized large-scale cultivation and the initial investments are significant, which disqualifies such enterprises for many producers in poorer countries.

Back to the roots
Organic and ecological farming are both water-stingy and far less water pollutant. Unfortunately, due to widespread and partly inconclusive data, the belief that such farming can supply us all with enough food has been destroyed. In the rich, industrialized world organic practices produce an admittedly a lower yield based on land use – only 80% compared to conventional agriculture. But when looking at the rest of the world, the developing countries (which after all make up the majority of the worlds landmass) show quite a different picture. A seven-year study done among 100 Indian farmers showed that such enterprises actually gave 20% higher yields than conventionally run agriculture!

Root Intensification
System of Root Intensification (SRI) is a composite system of different techniques. It can be used in conventional farming, though it functions best and is used most commonly with organic and ecological farming. Though it is slightly more laborious in the pre-process, there is an enormous impact of increased production and reduced water use.

Climate change adaptation: SRI using less water has larger root system. From Andhra Pradesh, India.

Climate change adaptation: SRI using less water has larger root system. From Andhra Pradesh, India.

The basic principles of SRI are:

  • – Carefully managed cultivation of sprouts
  • – Early transplantation of 8- to 15-day-old seedlings
  • – Simple planting with large distance
  • – Early and regular weeding
  • – Carefully controlled water management
  • – Use of natural compost as much as possible

Separately, these methods have been used for a long time. Together they constitute an extremely powerful method. The biggest advantage is that increasing returns are achieved by using less water. The amount of seed is also greatly reduced — by up to 80-90% savings. Neither fertilizers nor pesticides are required. About 250 scientific papers on SRI have been published in the last ten years. It is estimated that somewhere between four and five million farmers are using SRI today, with good support from authorities in countries like China, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.

In height
Vertical farming means cultivating in tiers, in structures like stories in a building. It goes without saying that it is very space efficient. Combined with hydroponics, one can produce huge amounts of vegetables almost anywhere and with low water consumption. This can be a good complement to traditional farming where certain plants such as rice and wheat, require large land areas and do not fit into future greenhouses. The food can be locally grown where people live and becomes homegrown; not even short-traveled. Since it takes place indoors such cultivation can be carried out everywhere but it requires some investment; artificial lighting and a certain degree of automation, preferably a lot. LED-lights are commonly used. Vertical farming is a modern and somewhat sterile culture method which might fit best into an urban environment, but it is one that may come to play a major role in the future, at least if migration to cities increases.

Power needs water
Virtually everything we do uses water and industry is of course no exception. The energy industry is high on the list of water consuming sectors with its 15% of the total, surpassed only by agriculture. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the need for water in energy production will double by 2035. More precisely: Water extraction will increase by 20%, while water consumption that does not go back to nature will increase by more than 85%. It is important to see where the energy is produced. Often it is created in clear competition with human needs for water in areas that are already water-stressed. On top of it all, it is an industry that contaminates water. Norway is in no way lagging behind. The Norwegian state owned Statoil is engaged both in tar sands and fracking (hydraulic fracturing), or shale gas extraction, as it’s so nicely referred to in Norway. Both are incredibly dirty businesses placing a heavy burden on water resources as well as having a tremendous effect by contaminating groundwater.

Among renewable energy sources, wind power is the most water efficient.

The car
When it comes to contaminating groundwater, motor oil is among the worst offenders, particularly in the US where it is considered to be one of the two biggest water polluters. One liter of motor-oil can contaminate 1 million liters (about 250,000 gallons) of water. The safest way to remedy this, aside from avoiding spills, is to change to plant-based motor-oils. 

When it comes to our small domestic consumption, much water used simply runs into the ground. Old and bad pipes and infrastructures are the main reasons, especially in poorer countries. This is obvious even in Europe with vast differences between the very countries that make up the EU. The richest countries have basically least amount of these losses, while the poorest have the greater. Globally, bad water pipes contribute to an incredible loss of improbable 35%.

There are over 21,000 desalination plants in more than 120 countries around the world. Since the turn of the millennium, the output of water from desalination plants has tripled. Yet this represents only a fraction of the total freshwater available and the price of production is high. The desalination process takes enormous amounts of energy. The energy consumption for one cubic meter of water is around 0.37kWh per from rivers and lakes and about 0.47kWh for groundwater, while a desalination plant uses between 2.58 and staggering 8.5kWt to ​​conjure as much water. In fact it is far less energy intensive to clean up wastewater — which has been done on a large scale in Australia and Singapore — than to desalinate water.

A huge effort is underway to research and explore new techniques to create fresh water. One of the most exciting pilot projects is in Chile where the goal is to transform fog into clean water, but so far desalinization is showing more significant promise. Nevertheless, small treatment plants or even water purifying “gadgets”, can be of great benefit where lack of clean water is greatest and where every drop counts.

While water has received less attention than climate change in general, water shortages will become more noticeable in the very near future. Restructuring our consumption patterns may be crucial for continued access to clean water. An average consumer in developed countries uses about 5,000 liters of water daily, while a vegetarian consumes approximately 2700 liters. Perhaps it is time to promote more than just one meat-free day a week?

— Ole A. Seifert

Recommended reading, especially for those who wants to know more detailed about different products, especially the water consumption of food and beverages:

Tony Allan (professor): Virtual Water – Tackling the Threat to Our Planet’s Most Precious Resource

This story was on print in the Norwegian weekly paper Ny Tid (Modern Times) March 18 2015.

Thanx to Sean Mazzetti for editing!

Read more about System of Root Intensification:

In with root intensification — out with gmo

Statoil’s hidden chapter: Fracking — the filth gets filthier

by Ole A. Seifert
Photo: Amy Youngs, amymyyou on Flicker<br />

Shale gas has long been advertised as being an environmentally sound alternative to oil and coal. Is this truly the case? Photo: Amy Youngs

Statoil, the Norwegian state owned Oil Company (owning 66% of the company’s shares) recently announced that it will reduce its tar sands extraction efforts in Alberta, Canada. The public are rejoicing, believing that their voice has been heard – unfortunately this is not the case. The reduction of the exploitation of the tar sands is indeed a wonderful thing, but it has occurred largely due to economic reasons.

A fair amount of Norwegians are very environmentally conscious and the detrimental effect that tar sand extraction has on the indigenous populations of Canada weighs heavy on their hearts. The fact that their government could inflict so much pain and suffering on a homeland other than their own was deeply upsetting, so the announcement of the reduction feels like a win, whatever the reason.

Shale gas has long been advertised as being an environmentally sound alternative to oil and coal. Is this truly the case? Have we had all the facts, or are we simply wanting to believe a government sanctioned advertisement campaign designed to build support for an industry that could well be as detrimental for the planet as all the rest? Are we being fed propaganda? Are we being fed and are we opening up our mouths and minds and swallowing a sugar coated truth?

Would you like a glass of fresh fracking water?

Hydraulic Fracturation, or “fracking” as it is more commonly known, is a hot topic for debate in many countries in the world. Some US cities and states have enforced a temporary ban on the practice after MSBNC ran an expose in 2009, followed by the CNN in 2010, showing how drinking water had an ignitable gas accompanied as a by-product when running out of a faucet. Quebec, Canada have also put a temporary ban on the practice. Tunisia and France have banned it completely.

Statoil is not affected with such bans. In fact, Statoil is one of the largest global operators of the fracking practice, especially on the Marcellus formations located in North-Eastern America. The Marcellus is the third largest field, after those found in Iran and Siberia.

Gas = environmentally friendly?
In a narrow perspective, gas is indeed more environmentally friendly, producing 40-50% less CO2 emissions than oil and coal. This is a great number, but gas affects other parts of our delicate world and in other ways, other ways that governments don’t want us to focus on, from soil pollution to water contamination. The biggest risk however, is the gas’s effect on global warming, especially the unburned gas. Fracking is (mainly) the extraction of methane gas, CH4. Methane gas is 86 times more dangerous as an accelerator to climate change than carbon dioxide in a twenty year-perspective, posing a huge risk to us once again. Currently the UN figures show this increased risk as 34% (IPCC in 2013) compared with CO, in a hundred year perspective. New satellite observations (2014) showed us a leak percentage high as 9-10 on average, which guts the entire benefit of switching to gas as an environmental friendly option.

Water, water, water, sand and chemicals
One of the main reasons that gas has become profitable again — as the techniques has been around for a long time, is the possibility for horizontal drilling and the fracking technique. It consists of pumping millions of liters of water mixed with sand and a huge quantities of chemicals. Many US states are now demanding that it should be explained and disclosed what chemicals are used, but this is halted by several of the companies involved. In 2005, “the Bush/Cheney Energy Bill” passed that exempted natural gas drilling from the Safe Drinking Water Act. It has until recently exempted companies from revealing the chemicals used in fracking. The decision overrides the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is referred to as the Halliburton loophole. In a recent report from the Environmental Integrity Project (October 2014), it has emerged that diesel and other dangerous liquids with higher levels of toxins as Benzene, Toluene, Ethyl benzene and Xylene. Are being used. These are very hazardous, carcinogenic substances. Fracking will normally go through between 4 and 30 million liters of water. Less than half of the water comes up again and can be treated and cleansed. 80-300 tons of chemicals are used. It goes without saying that the water is highly polluted and very toxic. Both the little that comes up, as well as what is left in the ground.

Accidents happen, even with Statoil. Most recently last summer. “Luckily” most of the gas burned, while the dirty water from boreholes rebounded and flooded the waste water basins and proceeded out in Opossum Creek about five kilometers away and killed an estimated 70,000 fish, according to conservative estimates from the EPA. I guess it was not so lucky for the fish.

More pain than gain
Let’s get back to the emission track. A new research report — Remote sensing of fugitive methane emissions from oil and gas production in North American tight geologic formations, October 2014, various authors — used satellite observations combined with EPA figures, and showed that although emissions have decreased somewhat, they are still too high to give gas the status as an environmentally friendly alternative. Another study from March 2014 (Towards a better understanding and quantification of methane emissions from shale gas development), argues that the EPA numbers are too low, as does a study from December 2013 (Assessment and Risk Analysis of casing and cement impairment in oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania, 2000-2012) who believes that methane emissions are more likely to be about 100 to 1000 times higher than the EPA estimates! Even with conservative estimates, fracking contributes to a faster global warming and has no net climate benefit whatsoever in any timescale that matters to humanity. It is also of importance to put in perspective that the fresh water — a stable yet scarce resource — is used up, polluted and made unfit for human consumption. Water has long been on the UN agenda (Millennium Development Goals, 2000 -2015). Even water rich nations like Norway will be affected if the water shortage worsens as 2/3 of Norway’s water consumption is abroad, known as Virtual Water.

Ethical guidelines?
Statoil has a long-term plan for the development of shale gas resources. We focus on technology that ensures recovery in the best possible way, providing the highest possible recovery rate, and reduces the environmental impact. In addition, we are working to identify and implement activities to benefit the communities where we operate.”

– from Statoil’s Norwegian homepage*.

Sure, they have long-term plans and technology that give the highest output and return for the company and its shareholders. Reducing environmental consequences? In relation to what? This is simply empty words. Unfortunately this is not the only empty words and misrepresentation. Statoil mix words like “everything” with 15-40%. Where else can you buy a product and only get 15-40% of the item, and still be pleased?

“We are increasingly recycling all water used during Bakken drilling operations. Many shale gas and tight oil operators, including Statoil, are seeking ways to fracture wells and limit the use of water through recycling or an overall reduction in water consumption. We are increasingly recycling all water used during Bakken drilling operations. After being injected into the well, part of the fracturing fluid will return in the days and weeks that follow. The amount of fluid that returns to the surface depends on geological characteristics. Typically between 15%-40% of the fluid is returned. The rest of the water injected as part of the hydraulic fracturing process remains in the shale formation and may be produced over a long period of time.”

— from Statoil’s own website, annual report 2012.

It sounds like pure fraud in a dirty industry. I have already mentioned this “rest of the water” being ”produced” over a long time beneath the ground as extremely polluted and a source of further contamination of groundwater.

Returned (flowback/produced) water is returned for the entire production lifetime of the well…” – it continues. Well, does this only apply for the Bakken formation wells? How credible is this, when they just failed this at the Marcellus formation in 2014? Do they really believe this themselves, until an accident happens there too? Thank you so very much, Statoil, we realize that you really take environmental responsibilities seriously.



A Norwegian version of this story was published in the magazine Gatenytt (Street News), December 2014.

Big thanx to Alexandra Dimitriou-Engeler for editing!

Who controls the weather?

by Ole A. Seifert

Climate WARWhen weather becomes a commodity, who will control it? Should the CIA be allowed to be active practitioners of geo—engineering? Can a country’s secret service justify using weather as a weapon? Or big business using weather modification for profit?  Weather as a weapon were prohibited in a convention in 1978, but it may seem like eg CIA now want to use this for the sake of Homeland security, which may seem like an undermining of this agreement. As large capital interests are engaged in weather modification, there is reason to monitor it all very carefully. Several economic giants are also known to sponsor climate skeptical scientists and so called “independent” grassroot movements, so how does this all fit together?

Geoengineering is in the media spotlight again, through the CIA sponsorship of a report published by the National Academy of Sciences early in February. Other sponsors include NASA, the US Department of Energy, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. However it is the CIA role that raised concerns and media coverage. The Center on Climate Change and National Security was created by the CIA in 2009. The center was officially shut down in 2012, though the CIA stated that they would continue to monitor climate change and its impact on US economic and national security, but not under the ‘center’ tab. Alan Robock, a Climate researcher at Rutgers University in New Jersey, USA, has published over 350 research and 200 pier reviewed papers and contributed to research for the UN climate reports (IPCC) on cooling the planet by the effects of aerosols (spraying particles) in the stratosphere, much like the effects of volcanic eruptions on climate, using computer models.

Alan Robock in Antartica

Alan Robock in Antarctica

At the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in San Jose, California February 12th to 16th this year, Robock highlighted his concern on who will own the climate control and climate altering technology. He was clear in his speech that all government agencies must be transparent about their interests in weather modification. Alan Robock concerns was generated by phone calls of two CIA consultants three years ago who asked if experts like him would be able to spot a hostile force’s attempts to upset the US climate.

Robocks was concerned that the implication was more a question of – could the US control someone else’s climate and would they detect it, and he responded that if a country created a large enough cloud in the stratosphere (upper layer of the atmosphere) to create climate change it would be detectable by satellites and other ground-based instruments. The United States covering 9,857,306 km2 and China almost the same at 9,596,961 km2, Russia 17,098,242 km2 and Canada 9,984,670 km2 might have lead Robock’s assumption of the size of a climate changing cloud being detectable, if used as a weapon against a whole nation. The British RAF (Royal Air Force) engaged in the research of sky seeding from 1949 to 1955, which could be speculated as ‘weaponising’ the weather. The resulting flooding in Britain on August 15, 1952, killed 35 people, dropped 90m tons of rain on and around the hilly Exmoor, Devon and Lynmoth districts wich subsequently created rock slides that destroyed many bridges, hotels shops and homes.

The main street of Lynmouth after the flooding in  1952

The main street of Lynmouth after the flooding in 1952

The disaster was referred to as “The Hand of God”. Un-classified official documents, revealed a team of international scientists in cooperation with the RAF tried to make artificial rain in the same week in the southern part of the United Kingdom. Squadron Leader Len Otley who worked on Operation Cumulus (the name of a cloud type), told the BBC that they jokingly referred to the rain program as Operation Witch Doctor. The missions were to fly into the top of the clouds and drop dry ice that 30 minutes later turned into rain.  The flooding put Operation Cumulus on hold, indefinitely. US Operation Popeye in North Vietnam and Laos from 1967 is a well documented previously classified weather altering exercise. The subsequent rain prevented the Viet Cong advancing as it softened the ground causing many landslides. The operation exposed by a journalist in 1971 resulted in a Senate hearing in 1974 and later in July 1974, bilateral discussions between the US and at the old USSR to limit the risk of using environmental modification techniques for military purposes. Identical draft texts presented by both parties to the Conference on Disarmament, CCD after intensive negotiations resulted in a modified text and agreement on four of the articles in what became the ‘ENMOD’. Operation Popeye protocols were recently used to deal with a drought in California, and cloud seeding over ski resorts to increase snow fall, is now common in the USA.


How the SPICE program was supposed to work.

The 2011 climate experiment project SPICE (Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering) in UK was put on hold after pressure from 60 different international groups, which lead the Washington-based Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) to release a report to get capable cooperation between the US and other friendly, likeminded nations, to perform large-scale climate change experiments with public support. Funding for the project was sourced from big oil, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies who claimed, “to represent a consensus among historically divergent views.” In reality it is representative of a mixture of US academic, military, scientific and big corporate interests, who lobby for free trade, corporate power and US military superiority. BPC has been referred to as a “collection of neo-conservative, hawks, and neo-liberal interventionists who want to make war on Iran”.

Questioning the motives of intelligence organizations, military and big corporate organization that contribute the most to CO2 emissions, is a must as the finger points to them as the sponsors of research into weather modification techniques, and large scale experimenting. Back in 1971, questions was raised if Operation Popeye had magnified devastating typhoons and floods that manifested later in that year. Geo-engineering of the weather to make more or less rain or to stop or prevent extreme weather for humanitarian purposes is a moral question that will require a more profound debate. If we should let the storm loose can we put it back in the bottle? Cutting greenhouse gas emissions is still a far safer way of tackling climate change. The alternative can be a full-scale war on and about the weather.



National Academy of Sciences’ two-volume report, published February 10th 2015:

  • Climate Intervention: Carbon Dioxide Removal and Reliable Sequestration
  • Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth


Big thanx to Gavin Tonks for proof-reading and great help in editing. 
Thanx also to Brad Kallio & Paul Bunk. 


Weather modification – what’s that?