Saturday, December 30, 2017

New York Times, Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program, December 17, 2017

Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program


‘Look at That Thing!’ U.S. Navy Jet Encounters Unknown Object

A video shows an encounter between a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet and an unknown object. It was released by the Defense Department's Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program.
By Courtesy of U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE on Publish Date December 16, 2017. Photo by Courtesy of U.S. Department of Defense. Watch in Times Video »
WASHINGTON — In the $600 billion annual Defense Department budgets, the $22 million spent on the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program was almost impossible to find.
Which was how the Pentagon wanted it.
For years, the program investigated reports of unidentified flying objects, according to Defense Department officials, interviews with program participants and records obtained by The New York Times. It was run by a military intelligence official, Luis Elizondo, on the fifth floor of the Pentagon’s C Ring, deep within the building’s maze.
The Defense Department has never before acknowledged the existence of the program, which it says it shut down in 2012. But its backers say that, while the Pentagon ended funding for the effort at that time, the program remains in existence. For the past five years, they say, officials with the program have continued to investigate episodes brought to them by service members, while also carrying out their other Defense Department duties.
The shadowy program — parts of it remain classified — began in 2007, and initially it was largely funded at the request of Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who was the Senate majority leader at the time and who has long had an interest in space phenomena. Most of the money went to an aerospace research company run by a billionaire entrepreneur and longtime friend of Mr. Reid’s, Robert Bigelow, who is currently working with NASA to produce expandable craft for humans to use in space.
On CBS’s “60 Minutes” in May, Mr. Bigelow said he was “absolutely convinced” that aliens exist and that U.F.O.s have visited Earth.
Harry Reid, the former Senate majority leader, has had a longtime interest in space phenomena. Credit Al Drago/The New York Times
Working with Mr. Bigelow’s Las Vegas-based company, the program produced documents that describe sightings of aircraft that seemed to move at very high velocities with no visible signs of propulsion, or that hovered with no apparent means of lift.
Continue reading the main story

Officials with the program have also studied videos of encounters between unknown objects and American military aircraft — including one released in August of a whitish oval object, about the size of a commercial plane, chased by two Navy F/A-18F fighter jets from the aircraft carrier Nimitz off the coast of San Diego in 2004.
Mr. Reid, who retired from Congress this year, said he was proud of the program. “I’m not embarrassed or ashamed or sorry I got this thing going,” Mr. Reid said in a recent interview in Nevada. “I think it’s one of the good things I did in my congressional service. I’ve done something that no one has done before.”
Two other former senators and top members of a defense spending subcommittee — Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, and Daniel K. Inouye, a Hawaii Democrat — also supported the program. Mr. Stevens died in 2010, and Mr. Inouye in 2012.
While not addressing the merits of the program, Sara Seager, an astrophysicist at M.I.T., cautioned that not knowing the origin of an object does not mean that it is from another planet or galaxy. “When people claim to observe truly unusual phenomena, sometimes it’s worth investigating seriously,” she said. But, she added, “what people sometimes don’t get about science is that we often have phenomena that remain unexplained.”

Video: U.S. Military Jets Encounter Unknown Object

A video shows a 2004 encounter near San Diego between two Navy F/A-18F fighter jets and an unknown object. It was released by the Defense Department's Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program.
By Courtesy of U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE on Publish Date December 16, 2017. Photo by U.S Department of Defense.
James E. Oberg, a former NASA space shuttle engineer and the author of 10 books on spaceflight who often debunks U.F.O. sightings, was also doubtful. “There are plenty of prosaic events and human perceptual traits that can account for these stories,” Mr. Oberg said. “Lots of people are active in the air and don’t want others to know about it. They are happy to lurk unrecognized in the noise, or even to stir it up as camouflage.”
Still, Mr. Oberg said he welcomed research. “There could well be a pearl there,” he said.
In response to questions from The Times, Pentagon officials this month acknowledged the existence of the program, which began as part of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Officials insisted that the effort had ended after five years, in 2012.
“It was determined that there were other, higher priority issues that merited funding, and it was in the best interest of the DoD to make a change,” a Pentagon spokesman, Thomas Crosson, said in an email, referring to the Department of Defense.
But Mr. Elizondo said the only thing that had ended was the effort’s government funding, which dried up in 2012. From then on, Mr. Elizondo said in an interview, he worked with officials from the Navy and the C.I.A. He continued to work out of his Pentagon office until this past October, when he resigned to protest what he characterized as excessive secrecy and internal opposition.
“Why aren’t we spending more time and effort on this issue?” Mr. Elizondo wrote in a resignation letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
Pentagon officials say the program ended in 2012, five years after it was created, but the official who led it said that only the government funding had ended then. Credit Charles Dharapak/Associated Press
Mr. Elizondo said that the effort continued and that he had a successor, whom he declined to name.
U.F.O.s have been repeatedly investigated over the decades in the United States, including by the American military. In 1947, the Air Force began a series of studies that investigated more than 12,000 claimed U.F.O. sightings before it was officially ended in 1969. The project, which included a study code-named Project Blue Book, started in 1952, concluded that most sightings involved stars, clouds, conventional aircraft or spy planes, although 701 remained unexplained.
Robert C. Seamans Jr., the secretary of the Air Force at the time, said in a memorandum announcing the end of Project Blue Book that it “no longer can be justified either on the ground of national security or in the interest of science.”
Mr. Reid said his interest in U.F.O.s came from Mr. Bigelow. In 2007, Mr. Reid said in the interview, Mr. Bigelow told him that an official with the Defense Intelligence Agency had approached him wanting to visit Mr. Bigelow’s ranch in Utah, where he conducted research.
Mr. Reid said he met with agency officials shortly after his meeting with Mr. Bigelow and learned that they wanted to start a research program on U.F.O.s. Mr. Reid then summoned Mr. Stevens and Mr. Inouye to a secure room in the Capitol.
“I had talked to John Glenn a number of years before,” Mr. Reid said, referring to the astronaut and former senator from Ohio, who died in 2016. Mr. Glenn, Mr. Reid said, had told him he thought that the federal government should be looking seriously into U.F.O.s, and should be talking to military service members, particularly pilots, who had reported seeing aircraft they could not identify or explain.
Luis Elizondo, who led the Pentagon effort to investigate U.F.O.s until October. He resigned to protest what he characterized as excessive secrecy and internal opposition to the program. Credit Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times
The sightings were not often reported up the military’s chain of command, Mr. Reid said, because service members were afraid they would be laughed at or stigmatized.
The meeting with Mr. Stevens and Mr. Inouye, Mr. Reid said, “was one of the easiest meetings I ever had.”
He added, “Ted Stevens said, ‘I’ve been waiting to do this since I was in the Air Force.’” (The Alaska senator had been a pilot in the Army’s air force, flying transport missions over China during World War II.)
During the meeting, Mr. Reid said, Mr. Stevens recounted being tailed by a strange aircraft with no known origin, which he said had followed his plane for miles.
None of the three senators wanted a public debate on the Senate floor about the funding for the program, Mr. Reid said. “This was so-called black money,” he said. “Stevens knows about it, Inouye knows about it. But that was it, and that’s how we wanted it.” Mr. Reid was referring to the Pentagon budget for classified programs.
Robert Bigelow, a billionaire entrepreneur and longtime friend of Mr. Reid, received most of the money allocated for the Pentagon program. On CBS’s “60 Minutes” in May, Mr. Bigelow said he was “absolutely convinced” that aliens exist and that U.F.O.s have visited Earth. Credit Isaac Brekken for The New York Times
Contracts obtained by The Times show a congressional appropriation of just under $22 million beginning in late 2008 through 2011. The money was used for management of the program, research and assessments of the threat posed by the objects.
The funding went to Mr. Bigelow’s company, Bigelow Aerospace, which hired subcontractors and solicited research for the program.
Under Mr. Bigelow’s direction, the company modified buildings in Las Vegas for the storage of metal alloys and other materials that Mr. Elizondo and program contractors said had been recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena. Researchers also studied people who said they had experienced physical effects from encounters with the objects and examined them for any physiological changes. In addition, researchers spoke to military service members who had reported sightings of strange aircraft.
“We’re sort of in the position of what would happen if you gave Leonardo da Vinci a garage-door opener,” said Harold E. Puthoff, an engineer who has conducted research on extrasensory perception for the C.I.A. and later worked as a contractor for the program. “First of all, he’d try to figure out what is this plastic stuff. He wouldn’t know anything about the electromagnetic signals involved or its function.”
The program collected video and audio recordings of reported U.F.O. incidents, including footage from a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet showing an aircraft surrounded by some kind of glowing aura traveling at high speed and rotating as it moves. The Navy pilots can be heard trying to understand what they are seeing. “There’s a whole fleet of them,” one exclaims. Defense officials declined to release the location and date of the incident.
“Internationally, we are the most backward country in the world on this issue,” Mr. Bigelow said in an interview. “Our scientists are scared of being ostracized, and our media is scared of the stigma. China and Russia are much more open and work on this with huge organizations within their countries. Smaller countries like Belgium, France, England and South American countries like Chile are more open, too. They are proactive and willing to discuss this topic, rather than being held back by a juvenile taboo.”
By 2009, Mr. Reid decided that the program had made such extraordinary discoveries that he argued for heightened security to protect it. “Much progress has been made with the identification of several highly sensitive, unconventional aerospace-related findings,” Mr. Reid said in a letter to William Lynn III, a deputy defense secretary at the time, requesting that it be designated a “restricted special access program” limited to a few listed officials.
A 2009 Pentagon briefing summary of the program prepared by its director at the time asserted that “what was considered science fiction is now science fact,” and that the United States was incapable of defending itself against some of the technologies discovered. Mr. Reid’s request for the special designation was denied.
Mr. Elizondo, in his resignation letter of Oct. 4, said there was a need for more serious attention to “the many accounts from the Navy and other services of unusual aerial systems interfering with military weapon platforms and displaying beyond-next-generation capabilities.” He expressed his frustration with the limitations placed on the program, telling Mr. Mattis that “there remains a vital need to ascertain capability and intent of these phenomena for the benefit of the armed forces and the nation.”
Mr. Elizondo has now joined Mr. Puthoff and another former Defense Department official, Christopher K. Mellon, who was a deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence, in a new commercial venture called To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science. They are speaking publicly about their efforts as their venture aims to raise money for research into U.F.O.s.
In the interview, Mr. Elizondo said he and his government colleagues had determined that the phenomena they had studied did not seem to originate from any country. “That fact is not something any government or institution should classify in order to keep secret from the people,” he said.
For his part, Mr. Reid said he did not know where the objects had come from. “If anyone says they have the answers now, they’re fooling themselves,” he said. “We do not know.”
But, he said, “we have to start someplace.”

New York Times, On the Trail of a Secret Pentagon U.F.O. Program, December 18, 2017

On the Trail of a Secret Pentagon U.F.O. Program

Videos show an encounter between a Navy Super Hornet and an unknown object.CreditCourtesy of U.S. Department of Defense
Our readers are plenty interested in unidentified flying objects. We know that from the huge response to our front-page Sunday article (published online just after noon on Saturday) revealing a secret Pentagon program to investigate U.F.O.s. The piece, by the Pentagon correspondent Helene Cooper, the author Leslie Kean and myself — a contributor to The Times after a 45-year staff career — has dominated the most emailed and most viewed lists since.
So how does a story on U.F.O.s get into The New York Times? Not easily, and only after a great deal of vetting, I assure you.
The journey began two and a half months ago with a tip to Leslie, who has long reported on U.F.O.s and published a 2010 New York Times best seller, “UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go on the Record.” At a confidential meeting Oct. 4 in a Pentagon City hotel with several present and former intelligence officials and a defense contractor, she met Luis Elizondo, the director of a Pentagon program she had never heard of: the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program.
She learned it was a secret effort, funded at the initiative of the then Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, starting in 2007, to investigate aerial threats including what the military preferred to call “unidentified aerial phenomena” or just “objects.” This was big news because the United States military had announced as far back as 1969 that U.F.O.s were not worth studying. Leslie also learned that Mr. Elizondo had just resigned to protest what he characterized as excessive secrecy and internal opposition — the reason for the meeting.
She spent hours with him reviewing unclassified documents, for the $22 million program operated largely “in the white” (that is, not under special restricted access), but hidden in the huge defense budget, with only parts of it classified. A few days later Mr. Elizondo and others there — including Harold E. Puthoff, an engineer who has conducted research on extrasensory perception for the C.I.A. and later worked as a contractor on the program, and Christopher K. Mellon, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence — announced they were joining a new commercial venture, To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science, to raise money for research into U.F.O.s. Leslie wrote it up for the Huffington Post with scant details of the program.
I had known Leslie for years, and she told me this looked like a story for The Times. I agreed. Leslie and I met with Mr. Elizondo in Philadelphia on Oct. 31. Three days later, I emailed the executive editor, Dean Baquet, about “a sensational and highly confidential time-sensitive story” that I said “involves a senior U.S. intelligence official who abruptly quit last month” exposing “a deeply secret program, long mythologized but now confirmed.”
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He alerted Mark Mazzetti, the investigations editor in the Washington bureau. Leslie and I briefed him in New York on Nov. 7. We assured him there were no anonymous sources; everyone was on the record. After discussions in Washington and New York, Helene joined our team. The Washington bureau chief, Elisabeth Bumiller, would be our editor. On Nov. 17, we three met Mr. Elizondo in a nondescript Washington hotel where he sat with his back to the wall, keeping an eye on the door.
Carl Hulse, The Times’s chief Washington correspondent, was well acquainted with Mr. Reid and helped arrange an interview for Helene. She flew to Las Vegas on Dec. 5 and met with the former senator, who confirmed the program with details, saying, “I’m not embarrassed or ashamed or sorry I got this going.”
Leslie interviewed the aerospace magnate Robert Bigelow, who also confirmed his participation, saying Americans were being held back from serious research into U.F.O.’s by “a juvenile taboo.” And I interviewed a prominent skeptic for perspective.
It was important that we not take anything on faith. This field attracts zealots as well as debunkers, and many Americans remain deeply skeptical that the phenomenon exists as popularly portrayed. In draft after draft, we took pains to let the investigation speak for itself, without bias.
Helene met with a Pentagon spokesperson on Dec. 8 for a response to the information we had gathered. The answer came swiftly. There had been a program to investigate U.F.O.s, but it ended in 2012 after five years, the Defense Department insisted.
Our reporting suggested it continues, largely unfunded, to the present. And that’s what we wrote.

New York Times UFO Article, December 16, 2017

U.F.O.s: Is This All There Is?

A U.F.O. in New Mexico in 1957. For astronomers, the biggest problem with alien visitation is not the occasional claim of mysterious light in the sky, but the fact that we’re not constantly overwhelmed with them.CreditBettmann, via Getty Images

Hey, Mr. Spaceman,
Won’t you please take me along?
I won’t do anything wrong.
Hey, Mr. Spaceman,
Won’t you please take me along for a ride?
So sang the Byrds in 1966, after strange radio bursts from distant galaxies called quasars had excited people about the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence.
I recalled those words recently when reading the account of a pair of Navy pilots who were outmaneuvered and outrun by a U.F.O. off the coast of San Diego back in 2004. Cmdr. David Fravor said later that he had no idea what he had seen.
“But,” he added, “I want to fly one.”
His story was part of a bundle of material released recently about a supersecret $22 million Pentagon project called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, aimed at investigating U.F.O.s. The project was officially killed in 2012, but now it’s being resurrected as a nonprofit organization.
Disgruntled that the government wasn’t taking the possibility of alien visitors seriously, a group of former defense officials, aerospace engineers and other space fans have set up their own group, To the Stars Academy of Arts & Science. One of its founders is Tom DeLonge, a former punk musician, record producer and entrepreneur, who is also the head of the group’s entertainment division.
For a minimum of $200, you can join and help finance their research into how U.F.O.s do whatever it is they do, as well as telepathy and “a point-to-point transportation craft that will erase the current travel limits of distance and time” by using a drive that “alters the space-time metric” — that is, a warp drive going faster than the speed of light, Einstein’s old cosmic speed limit.
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“We believe there are transformative discoveries within our reach that will revolutionize the human experience, but they can only be accomplished through the unrestricted support of breakthrough research, discovery and innovation,” says the group’s website.

A U.F.O. spotted by Navy pilots near San Diego in 2004.CreditDepartment of Defense

I’m not holding my breath waiting for progress on telepathy or warp drive, but I agree with at least one thing that one official with the group said. That was Steve Justice, a former engineer at Lockheed Martin’s famous Skunk Works, where advanced aircraft like the SR-71 high-altitude super-fast spy plane were designed.
“How dare we think that the physics we have today is all that there is,” he said in an interview published recently in HuffPost.
I could hardly agree more, having spent my professional life in the company of physicists and astronomers trying to poke out of the cocoon of present knowledge into the unknown, to overturn Einstein and what passes for contemporary science. Lately, they haven’t gotten anywhere.
The last time physicists had to deal with faster-than-light travel was six years ago, when a group of Italy-based physicists announced that they had seen the subatomic particles known as neutrinos going faster than light. It turned out they had wired up their equipment wrong.
So far Einstein is still the champ. But surely there is so much more to learn. A lot of surprises lie ahead, but many of the most popular ideas on how to transcend Einstein and his peers are on the verge of being ruled out. Transforming science is harder than it looks.
While there is a lot we don’t know, there is also a lot we do know. We know how to turn on our computers and let gadgets in our pocket navigate the world. We know that when physical objects zig and zag through a medium like air, as U.F.O.s are said to do, they produce turbulence and shock waves. NASA engineers predicted to the minute when the Cassini spacecraft would dwindle to a wisp of smoke in Saturn’s atmosphere last fall.
In moments like this, I take comfort in what the great Russian physicist and cosmologist Yakov Zeldovich, one of the fathers of the Soviet hydrogen bomb, once told me. “What science has already taken, it will not give back,” he said.
Scientists are not the killjoys in all this.
In the astronomical world, the border between science fact and science fiction can be very permeable, perhaps because many scientists grew up reading science fiction. And astronomers forever have their noses pressed up against the window of the unknown. They want to believe more than anybody, and I count myself among them.

Since the asteroid named Oumuamua was first noticed flying through our solar system in October, researchers have been monitoring for alien signals, so far to no avail.CreditM. Kornmesser/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But they are also trained to look at nature with ruthless rigor and skepticism. For astronomers, the biggest problem with E.T. is not the occasional claim of a mysterious light in the sky, but the fact that we are not constantly overwhelmed with them.
Half a century ago, the legendary physicist Enrico Fermi concluded from a simple back-of-the-envelope calculation that even without warp drive, a single civilization could visit and colonize all the planets in the galaxy in a fraction of the 10-billion-year age of the Milky Way.
Proponents of SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, have been debating ever since. One answer I like is the “zoo hypothesis,” according to which we have been placed off-limits, a cosmic wildlife refuge.
Another answer came from Jill Tarter, formerly the director of research at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif. “We haven’t looked hard enough,” she said when I asked her recently.
If there was an iPhone sitting under a rock on the Moon or Mars, for example, we would not have found it yet. Our own latest ideas for interstellar exploration involve launching probes the size of postage stamps to Alpha Centauri.
In the next generation, they might be the size of mosquitoes. By contrast, the dreams of some U.F.O. enthusiasts are stuck in 1950s technology.
Still, we keep trying.
Last fall when a strange object — an interstellar asteroid now named Oumuamua — was found cruising through the solar system, astronomers’ thoughts raced to the Arthur C. Clarke novel “Rendezvous With Rama,” in which the object was an alien spaceship. Two groups have been monitoring Oumuamua for alien radio signals, so far to no avail.
Meanwhile, some astronomers have speculated that the erratic dimming of a star known as “Boyajian’s star” or “Tabby’s star,” after the astronomer Tabetha Boyajian, could be caused by some gigantic construction project orbiting the star. So far that has not worked out, but none of the other explanations — dust or a fleet of comets — have, either.
A pair of Harvard astronomers suggested last spring that mysterious sporadic flashes of energy known as fast radio bursts coming from far far away are alien transmitters powering interstellar spacecraft carrying light sails. “Science isn’t a matter of belief, it’s a matter of evidence,” the astronomer Avi Loeb said in a news release from Harvard. “Deciding what’s likely ahead of time limits the possibilities. It’s worth putting ideas out there and letting the data be the judge.”
U.F.O. investigations are nothing new. The most famous was the Air Force’s Project Blue Book, which ran from 1952 to 1970 and examined more than 12,000 sightings.
Most U.F.O. sightings turn out to be swamp gas and other atmospheric anomalies, Venus, weird reflections or just plain hoaxes. But there is a stubborn residue, a few percent that resist easy explication, including now Commander Fravor’s story. But that’s a far cry from proving they are alien or interstellar.
I don’t know what to think about these stories, often told by sober, respected and professional observers — police officers, pilots, military officials — in indelible detail. I always wish I could have been there to see it for myself.
Then I wonder how much good it would do to see it anyway.
Recently I ran into my friend Mark Mitton, a professional magician, in a restaurant. He came over to the table and started doing tricks. At one point he fanned the card deck, asked my daughter to pick one, and then asked her to shuffle the deck, which she did expertly.
Mr. Mitton grabbed the deck and sprayed the cards in the air. There was my daughter’s card stuck to a mirror about five feet away. How did it get there? Not by any new physics. Seeing didn’t really help.
As modern psychology and neuroscience have established, the senses are an unreliable portal to reality, whatever that is.
Something might be happening, but we don’t know what it is. E.T., if you’re reading this, I’m still waiting to take my ride.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Beijing, Oregon

letter to the editor :                        aug 23 2017

your planet is burning up people.
figure it out: all this smoke is NOT normal.  fires in summer?, yes, but not on this scale.
The state of oregon has been turned into beijing oregon.
Its GLOBAL WARMING, remember?

To put it mildly, You are destroying your state and civilization folks.  In your desperation and insanity, you have created an unsustainable, utterly polluted, congested and 'out of control' urban sprawl of staggering proportions in every city and municipality you inhabit.

Your children are losing their future because of your idiocy.

you have GOT to get out of your gas guzzling trucks and SUV's.  You need to stop procreating like flies and you have GOT to STOP eating meat.  why is it that almost every single restaurant in the state of oregon serves meat?  Yours is a failed lifestyle, its killing our planet and it cannot and will not survive the future simply because it is NOT sustainable.

So, get rid of your chinese made american blood drenched flags, STOP supporting the US military and the domestic spy and surveillance american nazi police state, and learn to go vegan, ride bicycles and fly an EARTH FLAG on your front porch.

STOP voting for the war mongering republicrats and demoblicans and VOTE GREEN PARTY at the next round of voting.  Perhaps then, and ONLY then, will we have a chance of surviving the 21st century.

steve jones
bend, oregon

Saving the Planet:


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A World in Trouble: Drought, War, Food, Flight

The disruptions of climate and conflict are sparking perilous global insecurity
'What seems to be most significant today, and increasingly accepted within the FAO and other agencies, is that climate change is becoming a permanent reality affecting food supplies in many parts of the world. It is not something for the future, but is happening now.' (Photo: Asian Development Bank/flickr/cc)
Six years ago there were fears of a transnational famine developing across much of eastern Africa. At least 11 million people were at risk in what might have been the worst disaster of its kind since the early 1970s (see "A world in hunger: east Africa and beyond", 21 July 2011). 
This impending crisis was not unforeseen.
This impending crisis was not unforeseen. An analysis of several interlocking factors, already evident several years earlier, had anticipated such an outcome (see "The world's food insecurity", 24 April 2008). These factors included higher oil prices, the early impact of climate change, increased demand for feed grains to boost meat production for the richer countries, and the diversion of land to grow biofuels.
These recent moments of urgent concern from ten and six years ago mirror the near-disaster of the world food crisis of 1973-74, when multiple elements put at least 22 million people at risk. The danger then was narrowly avoided by emergency financial aid to enable the most crisis-ridden states to purchase grain from the international markets.
But that very success pointed to an underlying feature of all such crises, which needs to be better understood: namely, there has never been too little food to go round, for (at least since 1945) world grain resources have not been anywhere near complete depletion. The problem, instead, has been much more one of poverty. In short, people are unable for many reasons to grow their own food and far too poor to buy food when harvests fail.
There has never been too little food to go round.
Now there is a new international food crisis, as reported by the director-general of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation at the organisation's biennial conference. Jose Graziano da Silva said that the FAO "has identified nineteen countries facing severe food crises due to a combination of conflict and climate change, including South Sudan, northeast Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen, where nearly 20 million are at risk.”
In broad terms, da Silva and the FAO specialists see the current predicament as a reversal of the previous trend in which there has been a slow improvement in food availability across the world – the two recent periods cited above being the exception. Now there is a real problem, with the FAO calculating that some 60% people across the world who face hunger live in countries experiencing conflict or climate change, or both at once.
The effect of conflict on food availability, as in the many irregular wars of recent years, is clear enough. Here, some countries are able eventually to see a degree of peace restored, while others continue to be consumed by violence and as a result suffer deep food insecurity (see Irregular War: ISIS and the New Threat from the Margins [IB Tauris, 2016]).
A free and independent press is essential to the health of a functioning democracy
But what seems to be most significant today, and increasingly accepted within the FAO and other agencies, is that climate change is becoming a permanent reality affecting food supplies in many parts of the world. It is not something for the future, but is happening now (see "Climate disruption, the new reality", 19 May 2016).

Time to act

Since the early 1990s It has been recognised that climate change is an asymmetric process, which is likely to lead to a progressive drying out of the tropical and sub-tropical regions. David Rind’s seminal article was a vital early contribution for the non-specialist, in emphasising less that global rainfall was decreasing and more that this rainfall was tending to fall over the oceans and polar regions (see "Drying out the Tropics", New Scientist, 6 May 1995). Since the tropics and sub-tropics provide much of the food for the whole world, the implications of a fall in the carrying-capacity of the croplands would be progressive and, ultimately, catastrophic (see "Climate change and global security", 2 January 2003).
Climate change is an asymmetric process, which is likely to lead to a progressive drying out of the tropical and sub-tropical regions.
As with so many aspects of climate change, little was done at a global level in light of this knowledge. The world is now witnessing the results. The degree of vulnerability is shown by the relative availability of renewable water resources in different parts of the world. An FAO analysis puts it bluntly:
“In the Near East and North Africa region, the per capita renewable water availability is around 600 cubic metres per person per year – only 10 per cent of the world average –and drops to just 100 cubic metres in some countries…”  
With financial support and political commitment, there are many ways for food-producing communities to adapt in some degree to a decline in rainfall. The tactics might include really substantial improvements in water conservation, changes in the crops being grown and greater use of drought-tolerant varieties. These are necessary and buy time, but only up to a point. They will only realise their potential in the long term if the root cause of climate change – carbon emissions – is addressed. There is no escape from the need for a rapid reduction in such emissions. 
The increasing migratory flows across the Mediterranean towards southern Europe, and through other routes, are already featuring on the news agenda. These will become a familiar daily story in the coming months. Yet there is currently little evidence that western governments recognise their long-term significance and growing connection to climate change (see "Mediterranean dreams, climate realities", 23 April 2015).  
What is happening now is a marker for much greater pressures as climate change translates into climate disruption. If that is grasped in a strategic way, the urgent need to curb carbon emissions will become unavoidable.
Paul Rogers
Paul Rogers is professor in the department of peace studies at Bradford University, northern England. He is OpenDemocracy's international-security editor, and has been writing a weekly column on global security since 28 September 2001; he also writes a monthly briefing for the Oxford Research Group. His books include Why We’re Losing the War on Terror (Polity, 2007), and Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century (Pluto Press, 3rd edition, 2010). He is on twitter at: @ProfPRogers

To Protect Our Planet and Revitalize Our Economy, We Need a Climate Conservation Corps

To Protect Our Planet and Revitalize Our Economy, We Need a Climate Conservation Corps

Bob Dylan famously sang that “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”  We could update Dylan’s adage to say that in 2017, you don’t need a climatologist to see we’re in the midst of an ecological crisis.  By way of review:  2016 was the hottest year on record.  Before that, the hottest year was 2015.  Before that, it was 2014.  In fact, 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred since the year 2000. The warming is having dramatic consequences.  At the poles, sea ice coverage is at a record low.  The world’s coral reefs are experiencing a dramatic die-off.  In my home state of New Mexico, we are experiencing record high temperatures, deadly dust storms, and wildfire evacuations.
As serious as these environmental challenges are, they understandably take a back seat to more immediate economic concerns.  Unemployment is still a major concern in many parts of our country.  Middle class incomes have stagnated even as college tuition has skyrocketed.  Families are increasingly living paycheck-to-paycheck.  
In an age of drones and self-driving cars, the situation is only going to get worse.  According to one study, 47 percent of jobs in the United States are at risk from automation in the next 20 years.  No less a technophile than Bill Gates has suggested a “robot tax” to slow automation, fund worker retraining efforts, and expand public employment.
Faced with these enormous economic and environmental challenges, we need to think big. Luckily, there is an elegant solution to both problems, with precedent in U.S. history.  The solution is to create a Climate Conservation Corps to put Americans to work fighting climate change.
In 1933, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office, the Great Depression was at its nadir.  Less often remembered is that the nation was experiencing an ecological crisis.  Forest coverage was at all time lows. Overplanting and overgrazing were contributing to dramatic soil erosion, foreshadowing the Dust Bowl.  President Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps in response to these exigencies.  Between 1933 and 1942, the CCC employed more than 3 million young men, who planted nearly 3 billion trees, developed 800 new state parks, and constructed 13,000 miles of hiking trails.  Many historians rank the CCC as the most popular of all the New Deal programs.  Nonetheless, Congress terminated it upon the onset of World War II.  
Since the Great Recession, a number of prominent commentators have argued for bringing it back.  Progressive members of Congress have also shown an interest in the idea.  Unsurprisingly, commentators have argued that a reconstituted CCC should focus on the battle against climate change.  
The obvious place for such a program to begin would be with energy efficiency.  Energy efficiency has the potential to save consumers a tremendous amount of money while greatly reducing emissions.  In 2009, the McKinsey consulting firm estimated that an aggressive approach to energy efficiency could save U.S. consumers nearly $600 billion while preventing 1.1 billion tons of CO2 (the annual emissions of 320 coal-fired power plants).  Investing in energy efficiency makes particular sense because it is rapidly growing sector of the economy that is limited by employers’ difficulty finding qualified employees.  According to the Department of Energy, the U.S economy could support an additional 3 million construction jobs in this sector, but over 80 percent of employers reported difficulty finding qualified employees.  A Climate Conservation Corps could remove a key impediment to this sector’s growth by training and deploying a new generation of workers.
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State and local governments are leading the way.  Since 2013, the California Conservation Corps has employed young adults and recently returned veterans to perform energy audits and simple retrofits at schools, low-income homes, and national forest facilities.  Minnesota had put AmeriCorps participants to work in residences, installing smart thermostats and power strips, CFL light bulbs, door weather stripping, and other energy-saving technologies.  A number of cities and states have employed corps members to perform similar tasks, or to educate members of the public about energy efficiency.  The Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program provides another model.  Since 1976, the DOE has worked with state and local governments to perform audits and retrofits in low-income homes, saving homeowners $340 million in a typical year while supporting 8,500 jobs.  A Climate Conservation Corps could build upon this work on a much larger scale.
Such a program would more than pay for itself in energy savings.  It would also stimulate the economy as a whole.  A 2009 study found a ten-fold increase in economic activity for every dollar invested in energy efficiency in New England.  This stimulus effect was a result of lower energy costs, which lead to increased consumer spending and a reduction in the cost of doing business.
The scope of the energy efficiency opportunity is such that there would be little need to focus on anything else in the near term.  But the new CCC should be designed with sufficient flexibility to take on other projects that contribute meaningfully to the fight against climate change, have low capital costs, and are not being undertaken by the private sector with sufficient alacrity.  Projects like solar panel manufacturing and installation, reforestation, and wetland restoration might fit the bill.
A public works program is not the only way to reduce emissions while creating jobs:  traditional pollution control programs like the Clean Power Plan would also create hundreds of thousands of jobs.  If more familiar mechanisms are capable of producing similar economic and environmental benefits, one might question the need for a Climate Conservation Corps.  That would be misguided.  Behavioral economists have shown that the framing of policy options matters greatly.  If a policy is presented in a way that emphasizes its benefits, people are more likely to favor it than if the same policy is presented in a way that emphasizes its cost.
Although programs like the Clean Power Plan would create hundreds of thousands of jobs, they are not framed as job-creating measures, and are not understood by the public as such.  In fact, many people incorrectly assume that regulations lead to reduced employment.  The Climate Conservation Corps avoids this pitfall by emphasizing both environmental and employment benefits.  
We should continue to advocate for measures like the Clean Power Plan.  But in the face of an existential crisis, we need to try everything we can think of.  We could do a lot worse than to emulate the most popular program of the New Deal.