Thursday, January 27, 2022

COP26 and Green Gaslighting

 


“Gaslighting” means “the action of manipulating someone by psychological means into accepting a false depiction of reality or doubting their own sanity”. Green gaslighting goes beyond greenwashing, which constitutes the use of ecological themes as a marketing tool to cover up the ecological harm of profit-making activities. Gaslighting does more than deceive the public, it also disempowers and undermines the potential to identify the root causes of climate change and ways to address them.

COP26 will probably go down in history as the conference of the “net zero pledges”. There were many of them: from India’s desire to be carbon neutral by 2070, China’s by 2060, to the EU’s goal of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent by the year 2030, to US commitments to cut emissions by 50 percent by the same year.

But these are all illusory climate action measures. “Net zero emissions” does not actually mean bringing emissions down to zero. Rather it refers to a set of policies that aim to compensate continued emissions with projects that absorb carbon elsewhere. These policies are supposed to help remove the extra emissions from the atmosphere through measures like tree planting, enhanced forest protection (i.e. preventing deforestation), and costly carbon capture and storage technologies.

The problem is that evaluating compliance with “net zero” goals is extremely difficult, and so is proving the full efficacy of these “carbon offsetting” measures. For example, over the past 20 years of discussions about carbon offsets, no solid solution has been found to the problem of verifying in a transparent manner how emissions reductions are achieved.

Furthermore, offsetting projects can have negative social consequences for vulnerable communities. The push for forest expansion, for example, could result in the mass displacement of peasants and indigenous communities from their ancestral lands and into peri-urban slums where devastating poverty awaits them.

Corporations are already eyeing land in developing countries for lucrative “carbon credit” projects. In a report entitled “Nature and Net Zero” by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and management consulting firm McKinsey & Co, published in January 2021, the “economic feasibility” of land around the world was mapped to establish its “carbon abatement potential”. The report assigns different value to different types of lands and estimated costs of realising “natural climate solutions” (i.e. carbon offset) projects on them.

“High feasibility” lands are considered those which are “low cost” – that is, real or potential agricultural rent from them is low and therefore, they would be more likely to be converted to forests, for example. But while the WEF and McKinsey & Co may consider such areas “cheap land”, for small-scale farmers, pastoralists and Indigenous communities, they are ancestral lands that often have significant cultural, religious and communal value.

Needless to say, the report does not mention the potential social and human cost of displacement and the economic and physical violence acquiring such land is likely to lead to. “Carbon credit accounting” standards that are being set up currently require that a forested area be at least 25 million hectares (roughly the area of the US state of Vermont) to qualify for carbon credits. One can only imagine what a reforestation effort trying to meet this standard would look like and the amount of forced displacement it would take to achieve it.

The report also does not address the fact that eviction of small-scale farmers from their “cheap land” might actually result in local food crises, given that a significant portion of the world’s population is fed by small farms. In fact, Oxfam and others have warned that the drive for and monetisation of reforestation may lead to worsening global hunger.

The WEF and McKinsey report, however, does make clear the potential for profit from “natural solutions” that can be monetised as “carbon credits” and “sold” to polluters. Governments and corporations have already jumped at the opportunity. Leading the way on carbon offsets through forest conservation is the Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest Finance (LEAF) coalition, which in November announced that it has met a target of $1bn in commitments to support forest-linked carbon offsetting projects.

Because governments and corporations know that they would never do what is necessary to rein in climate change, they have come up with a few terms to placate the masses: “climate resilience”, “climate adaptation” and “climate mitigation”. All of these refer to our supposed ability to respond to and deal with the effects of climate change and are based on the premise that humanity can actually pull through a climate catastrophe with minimal consequences while maintaining the global economic status quo. No more than buzzwords that drive investment and profit. Unsurprisingly, they were prominently used at COP26, where one of the outcomes was the announcement of various financial pledges for “nature-based solutions for climate resilience”.

These terms also feature in reports by economists praising the monetary value of nature and calling for investment in it. For example, a 2020 report funded in part by National Geographic, found that the economic benefits of conserving 30 percent of the earth’s land and oceans outweigh “the costs by at least 5-to-1”.

The report frames nature’s value as a lucrative asset – “a single underexploited type of asset”, which provides $125 trillion worth of benefits to humanity. Its preservation can prevent economic losses from climate change by building “resilience” and generating profits in the form of booming tourism sectors, growing agricultural and forestry outputs, and regenerated fish stocks, among others. As one of the report’s co-authors concludes, it is time “to finance nature”.

All of a sudden, proposed new real estate, airport, roadway, and shipping developments that increase the anthropogenic impacts on climate and ecological breakdown – are being spun as “green” investments – or climate “impact investments”. All they have to do is claim to “provide climate solutions”, “mitigate” climate change impacts or provide “sustainable living” and voilĂ … New swish developments are given the “green” light.

One example is Royalmount, a $7bn real estate project under construction in the Canadian city of Montreal, which promises “experiential attractions, retail, office space and accommodations… firmly rooted in nature, rejuvenation and sustainability-minded strategies”. It claims that it will be “carbon neutral”, will reduce energy consumption by 34 percent and plant 450,000 trees, shrubs and perennials.

That pretty landscaping is not the same thing as paying attention to ecology, that the project’s “impact” on Montreal’s residents, already struggling with high rents, will not be a positive one and that “nature” will certainly be better off without this new development are facts carefully obscured by “green investment” proponents. Climate “impact investing” that is meant to “build climate resilience” is no different from investing in traditional asset classes, as there is no way to guarantee that the sought-after “impact” helps nature or local communities. And just like the “net zero emissions” slogan, it is simply a deception meant to make people believe that those most responsible for the climate crisis – rich countries, venture capitalists, and multinational corporations – are in fact the most ecologically-minded.

COP26 illustrated the extent to which these deceptions have captured the global discourse on climate changes.

We need to stop centring attention on the false “solutions” the wealthy and powerful are offering and refocus on the plight of the ordinary people who are already suffering from the climate crisis: the urban poor, peasants and pastoralists as well as Indigenous people. Their needs and struggles need to be central to a genuine ecological response that couples emissions reductions with degrowth, living wages and dignified working conditions, eliminate the use of fossil fuels, and reorganises the global economy away from neocolonial land grabs, resource abuse and underpaid labour and towards social justice. Anything short of this is smoke and mirrors. The people will not be fooled.

Abridged and adapted from here

Green gaslighting: Another face of climate denialism | Climate Crisis | Al Jazeera

Profit Put Before the Elderly

 France’s government pledged to investigate what it called “absolutely revolting” allegations that a world leader in care for older adults has been putting profit before quality, rationing food and other items for nursing home residents. 

Orpea, with more than 1,100 care homes in 23 countries, has been accused of shoddy and rapacious care in an investigative journalist’s book. The journalist, Victor Castanet, said in a television interview that an intermediary offered him 15 million euros ($17 million) to drop the project during his research for “The Gravediggers.” The obsession with cost-cutting in Orpea's retirement homes is leading to serious "dysfunctions", according to the book

Quoted in the book was a former Orpea nursing home employee who alleged that sanitary protections for residents were rationed to three a day in the care unit with a “terrible smell of piss” where she worked.


Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Socialist Sonnet No. 51

Battle Lines


 Battalions are being moved to the border,

With squadrons of tanks, by martial decree,

Pilots are scrambled, navy’s all at sea,

Young lives determined by the next order.

This is the fault of the other side, of course,

For having the wrong language, flag or friends.

Whichever one attacks, which one defends,

Both will count the dead and share remorse.

How long before there’s common agreement

That the dead are not glorious, just dead?

As long as there are leaders and the misled,

Profit remains decisive of intent.

While capital is allowed to rule, then

There will be war again and again…


D. A.

More Bad News

 


Pay increases are failing to keep up with rising inflation, leading to another year of "wages gloom" for public sector workers, the TUC said.

The union umbrella body said public sector workers were already thousands of pounds worse off after suffering a "lost decade", during which their pay failed to keep up with price rises. With inflation now forecast to reach 6% or higher in 2022, the situation was set to get worse, it said.

Frances O'Grady, the TUC general secretary, said: "Hard work should pay for everyone. But millions of key workers - on the frontline of the pandemic - face another year of wages gloom. That is not right. The government must stop burying its head and get pay rising across the economy. Ministers cannot abandon families during this cost-of-living crisis."

In real terms - that is, after inflation is taken into account - nurses are £2,700 worse off than in 2010, the TUC has calculated. Care workers employed by local authorities are more than £1,600 a year worse off, it added.


Key workers face cost of living squeeze, TUC warns - BBC News

Strikes Succeed

 


Unionized workers at Denver-area King Soopers grocery stores approved a new three-year contract on Monday following a 10-day strike by more than 8,000 low-wage employees in Colorado. From January 12 until the strike ended Friday, workers at nearly 80 stores across the Denver metropolitan area, from Parker to Boulder, took to the picket lines to demand a living wage and improved conditions.

"Strikes absolutely work," said Kim Cordova, president of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7, which organized the work stoppage. "It shows the company that they can't run without workers."

"It shows that where the real power is with the people," added Cordova, "We're hoping that we set the bar so that other workers in this country follow suit."

The deal includes pay raises of more than $5 an hour for some employees, which the union called "the most significant wage increase ever secured by a UFCW local for grocery workers." The contract also creates more full-time employment opportunities and secures better healthcare and pension benefits as well as stronger workplace safety measures.

The strike started after UFCW Local 7 rejected what Cordova called a "grossly unfair" offer from King Soopers management.

That offer coincided with the publication of a report showing that as a result of Kroger's poverty wages and erratic scheduling practices, two-thirds of surveyed workers couldn't afford basic monthly expenses, 39% couldn't afford groceries, and 14% have experienced homelessness in the past year.

Meanwhile, the company's top brass has thrived during the Covid-19 pandemic, especially CEO Rodney McMullen. After receiving a large bonus in 2020, his total compensation that year reached $22.4 million, which was 909 times what the median worker earned. 

Furthermore, Sanders' staff director Warren Gunnels pointed out Monday night, Kroger spent more than $1.5 billion on stock buybacks between April 2020 and July 2021 "to enrich its wealthy shareholders."

'Strikes Absolutely Work': Kroger Workers Win New Contract (commondreams.org)

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Solidarity



1,100 coal miners in Alabama are still on strike after more than 10 months making it the longest in Alabama’s history.

Workers started the unfair labor practice strike over claims of bad faith bargaining by Warrior Met Coal over a new union contract. In the previous contract settled in 2016, miners accepted several concessions, including a $6-an-hour pay cut and reductions in health insurance and other benefits as the mines switched employers in the wake of a bankruptcy. Since Warrior Met Coal took over the mines, the company has reported billions of dollars in revenue. A tentative agreement was reached in the first week of the strike, but overwhelmingly rejected by workers, and a new agreement has yet to be reached.

Over the past 10 months, they have held rallies and extended protests to the Alabama state capitol to criticize the use of public resources for state troopers escorting strikebreaking replacement workers to the mines throughout the strike. Miners have also held rallies in New York City outside the offices of BlackRock Investment Group, the largest shareholder of Warrior Met Coal. 

“What they’ve said openly in negotiations is that they’re just going to starve us out. They’ve said … and this on record, that ‘we have the money to pay what you’re asking, we do not have the desire to.’ That’s the kind of company these guys have been working for,” said Haeden Wright, president of the United Mine Workers of America auxiliary for two of the striking locals and the wife of a striking miner. “Though the journey, most of us are still holding out and trying to hold on, but it is hard... For it to last this long and to have state troopers and to watch your tax dollars escort scabs into your job, that’s a hard pill to swallow,” added Wright. “That’s hard to watch and not be able to do anything about.”

The unions’ auxiliary has focused on receiving and distributing weekly groceries to miners and their families throughout the strike and assisting families with needs such as bills. It recently organized a Christmas gift drive for miners’ families to ensure their children were taken care of over the holidays.

 Warrior Met Coal has filed several court injunctions throughout the strike to severely limit or prevent striking miners from picketing outside the mines. Several union members and supporters have reported incidents where vehicles have hit or nearly missed individuals on the picket lines. The injunctions have been characterized as a rare move, an attempt by Warrior Met Coal to circumvent the NLRB and instead seek rulings from favorable local courts.

Alabama coalminers on strike for 10 months vow not to be ‘starved out’ | Labour | The Guardian

MLK's Socialism

 


What good is having the right to sit at a lunch counter,” Martin Luther King Jnr is widely quoted as asking, if you can’t afford to buy a hamburger?” 

As Black History Month approaches, the blog is not trying to claim MLK as one of its own. We merely wish to draw attention to the fact that he recognised that socialism is required for the deeper solutions to the inequalities facing working people, especially the African-Americans of the United States. 

In 1952 a 23-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. as a first-year undergraduate at Boston University of Theology described his views toward America’s economic system. I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic,” he admitted to his then-girlfriend, concluding that capitalism has outlived its usefulness.” He explained capitalism has brought about a system that takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes.”

 15 years later in his  book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, his opinion remained the sameCapitalism has often left a gap of superfluous wealth and abject poverty and has created conditions permitting necessities to be taken from the many to give luxuries to the few.”

In his 1967 Riverside Church speech, King included in his sermon the observation: When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

Speaking to the staff of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)  in 1966, King said that something is wrong … with capitalism” and there must be a better distribution of wealth” in the country. Maybe,” he suggested, America must move toward a democratic socialism.”

 In an interview with the New York Times in 1968, King described his work with the SCLC as In a sense, you could say we are engaged in the class struggle.”

In Where Do We Go From Here, he outlines how economic inequality can circumscribe civil rights. While the wealthy enjoy easy access to lawyers and the courts, the poor, however, are helpless.” 

 In Where Do We Go From Here, MLK called the victories of the movement up that point in 1967 a foothold, no more” in the struggle for freedom. Only a campaign to realize economic, as well as racial justice, could win true equality for African-Americans. In naming his goal, King was unflinching: the total, direct, and immediate abolition of poverty.”

 He pointed out that in the USA, we compress our abundance into the overfed mouths of the middle and upper classes until they gag with superfluity,” 

MLK's project, the Poor People’s Campaign, shows his dream included a future of both racial and economic equality. In King’s words, as soon as he demanded the realization of equality” — the second phase of the civil rights movement — he discovered white liberal 'middle class' suddenly indifferent.

For King, the only solution to America’s crisis of poverty was the redistribution of wealth. In a 1961 speech to the Negro American Labor Council, King declared, Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children.”

From 

The Forgotten Socialist History of Martin Luther King Jr. - In These Times



Child-Care Workers in Poverty

 Of the nearly one million child care workers in the United States, in a recent white paper, 31.2% – basically 1 out of every 3 – experienced food insecurity in 2020, the latest year for which data was analyzed.

 Food insecurity means there is a lack of consistent access to enough food. This rate of food insecurity is anywhere from 8 to 20 percentage points higher than the national average.  High food insecurity is when a person reports reduced quality and variety of diet. Very high food insecurity occurs when a person reports disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.

In Washington state and Texas, one study found 42% of child care workers experienced food insecurity, with 20% of child care workers experiencing very high food insecurity.

Another study in Arkansas found that 40% of child care workers experienced food insecurity.

People who are food insecure are at increased chances of being poor health, with conditions like hypertension, diabetes, asthma, arthritis and depression, among other chronic diseases and health conditions.

This workforce is central to providing high-quality early childhood education to children up to 5 years old.  Despite the fact that the more education child care workers have the higher-quality care they deliver, many states require only a high school diploma or equivalent, and some states do not have any education requirements for entry-level positions.

Low wages and food insecurity may contribute to child care workers’ high-stress levels. When child care workers experience stress, they tend to reduce the amount of positive attention to children and increase their punitive responses to children’s challenging behavior.

Overall, child care workers’ wages are low, with the median hourly wage being $12.24 per hour. This means child care workers make little more than fast-food workers, whose median pay is $11.64 per hour. What child care workers make is not considered a living wage.  Child care workers with a bachelor’s degree average $14.70 per hour, which is just under half the average earnings overall of those with a bachelor’s degree – $27 per hour.

As a result of low wages, more than 53% of child care workers received public assistance, including Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program from 2014 to 2016.

When so many child care workers rely on public assistance, it reveals how many of them don’t make enough money to get by.

Nearly all U.S. child care workers are women, and half are people of color.

Opinion | Around 1 in 3 Child Care Workers Are Going Hungry | Colin Page McGinnis (commondreams.org)

Priti Patel Aiding the People Smugglers

“We did not leave our country in search of happiness,”  a Syrian asylum seeker, who fled war, imprisonment and torture in his homeland before travelling through several countries and reaching the UK, explained to the Guardian. “Rather, we went out to save our family from a war that does not know the young or the old and does not differentiate between the strong or the weak, in which no one can survive. We walked in the most dangerous country, crossed the desert and crossed the English Channel in a rubber boat, knowing we may die in the sea. Has any official asked themselves what motivated us to risk ourselves … I was ready to die in order to save my family. What Priti Patel is thinking now is to eliminate our families by depriving us of family reunion.” 

It is often male refugees fleeing conflict zones who make hazardous journeys through several countries on foot, in lorries and in small boats across the Channel in the hope of reaching safety in the UK.

They hope to be granted protection and under current rules, they then have the right to bring close family members to join them, such as their partners and children. The family members can travel safely to the UK by plane and can avoid repeating the dangerous journey made by the first family member.  

However, according to Enver Solomon, the CEO of the Refugee Council, new government plans in the nationality and borders bill, currently being debated in the Lords, will severely restrict family reunion and “all but destroy” the main safe route used by refugee families to reunite with loved ones. The government’s New Plan for Immigration aims to restrict family reunion rights for refugees who travelled through a safe third country before reaching the UK. Solomon told the Guardian that the new government proposals will lead to thousands of women and children having no other option but to pay smugglers to board dangerous dinghies to cross the Channel. The plans will reduce rather than enhance the safe and legal routes Patel has been advocating, according to Solomon. 

17,500 refugees, mainly women and children, could be prevented from reuniting with close family members in the UK due to new rules the Home Office plans to introduce, according to analysis by the Refugee Council. Government data shows that over the last five years 29,000 people, over 90% of them women and children, have been able to come to the UK safely under family reunion rules to join a close family member already here and granted protection in the UK.

The Refugee Council has calculated, using this government data, that as many as 3,500 people a year could be prevented from joining loved ones if the proposals in the bill become law – 17,500 people in the next five years.

New rules could prevent thousands of refugees from joining close family in UK | Home Office | The Guardian

Monday, January 24, 2022

Bumper share dividends

 UK dividends jumped by 46.1% last year to a staggering £94.1bn on the back of bumper payouts from mining companies, according to the latest figures.

Payouts from companies in the UK is now at 2017 levels. 

UK dividend income rises to £94bn in 2021 (yahoo.com)

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Quote of the Day

 In an interview with the BBC’s Today programme, Iceland’s managing director Richard Walker said, "I think there are more food banks now than there are branches of MacDonalds.” and added. “This is no exaggeration: there are people out there facing the choice between eating and heating, and we are losing customers to hunger.”

Not to rival supermarkets but to poverty. 

Buying Democracy

 


Americans for Tax Fairness on Friday published a report showing that U.S. billionaires donated a staggering $1.2 billion into the 2020 elections.

ATF's analysis, the distribution of billionaire cash between Republican and Democratic candidates was pretty evenly split in 2020, with 55% of the total going to GOP campaigns.

"In the 2010 election cycle, billionaires gave $19 million to Republicans and $11 million to Democrats," ATF noted. "By the 2020 cycle, those respective figures were $656 million and $539 million."

Nearly a third of the billionaire campaign funding in 2020 came from the mega-rich couple Sheldon and Miriam Adelson—former President Donald Trump's top donors—and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who doled out $152.5 million during the 2020 election cycle, not including the $1.1 billion he spent on his own short-lived White House bid.

Democratic businessman Tom Steyer, his wife Kathryn Taylor, and Republican hedge fund manager Ken Griffin also spent big in 2020, collectively donating over $400 million.

Frank Clemente, ATF's executive director, said in a statement that the findings lay bare the "disastrous" consequences of the high court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which toppled longstanding campaign finance restrictions and opened the floodgates to unlimited election spending by corporations and rich individuals.

And the reason billionaires have so much cash to give to political campaigns, Clemente stressed, is that they've been able to accumulate vast fortunes without any real threat of higher taxes. 

ATF argued that such campaign donations "are a profitable investment: they buy access to politicians and influence over tax and other policies that can save tycoons billions of dollars."

"While that $1.2 billion 'investment' in 2020 was massive, it totalled less than 0.1% of billionaire wealth (and less than one day's worth of their pandemic wealth growth), leaving almost unlimited room for future growth in billionaire campaign spending," the group warned.

'Time for Citizens United to Go': US Oligarchs Poured $1.2 Billion Into 2020 Elections (commondreams.org)

Saturday, January 22, 2022

No one helped — or did they?

 It is a truism of moralists that when bad things are done to people it is not only the perpetrators who are to blame but also the bystanders – those wretches who watch and do nothing.

A shocking example of such callousness and passivity was reported by The New York Times on March 27, 1964. Two weeks earlier, according to the report, a young woman had been murdered in the middle of the night in Kew Gardens, a neighborhood of Queens in New York City. For over half an hour, 38 neighbors had peered through their windows as the killer stalked and stabbed her. Despite her cries and screams, no one came to her aid. No one even called the police.

Ten years later, an amateur historian named Joseph DeMay moved into the neighborhood and decided to investigate what had really happened that night.

He found that 38 neighbors had indeed been questioned by the police. That was where the suspiciously exact figure of 38 came from. But only two of the 38 had seen the stabbing and only one of those two could reasonably be accused of ‘watching and doing nothing.’ Some of the 38 had not woken up at all. Others had heard something, looked out, and seen a woman lurching down the street, but assumed she was drunk. There was a bar up the street and drunkards were not an unusual sight. 

Two residents, in fact, had called the police. The police hadn’t come. DeMay was unable to find out why not. A third resident, the second of the two eyewitnesses, had wanted the police to come, but was afraid of drawing their attention to himself because he was gay (homosexuality being still illegal at the time). However, he did alert the people next door and one of those ran out, found the victim, and was able to comfort her as she lay dying. 

The article in The New York Times set off a storm of publicity. Dozens of residents were interviewed by journalists but complained afterwards that the press had twisted their words. One journalist concluded that the published account was mostly untrue, but kept this knowledge to himself out of fear of losing his job. 

The corporate media systematically portray ordinary people as worse than we really are – as more competitive, more aggressive, more selfish, less willing to cooperate and help others. That helps to explain why most of us continue to think that socialism is impossible because, after all, ‘you can’t change human nature.’

Source: Rutger Bregman, Humankind: A Hopeful History (Little, Brown & Co., 2021), Ch. 9 (The Death of Catherine Susan Genovese)

Stephen Shenfield

World Socialist Party of the United States

No one helped — or did they? | World Socialist Party of the US (wspus.org)

Forced labour

 Elon Musk is asked to prove Tesla vehicles aren’t manufactured with forced labour of Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region Democrat lawmakers have joined Republicans in scolding Elon Musk for opening a Tesla showroom in Xinjiang, where China is accused of slavery and genocide against Uighur Muslims. Two Democratic congressmen who oversee trade wrote to Musk demanding to know whether Tesla sourced its materials and products from forced-labour camps in Xinjiang.

Perhaps the American politicians should also examine their own backyard and the forced labour carried out within the United States

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/23/prisoner-speak-out-american-slave-labor-strike

Can Africa Reverse its Population Growth?

 In 2022 the world’s population will pass 8 billion. It has increased by a third in just two decades. By 2050, there will be about 9.5 billion. 

Fertility rates in Europe, North America and East Asia are generally below 2.1 births per woman, the level at which populations remain stable at constant mortality rates. 

 The birthrate in Italy is the lowest it has ever been in the country’s history

South Korea’s fertility rate has been stuck below one birth per woman for decades despite an estimated $120bn (£90bn) being spent on initiatives aimed at raising it. 

Japan started the century with 128 million citizens but is on course to have only 106 million by 2050. 

China’s population will peak at 1.45 billion in 2030, but if it proves unable to raise its fertility rate, the world’s most populous country could end the century with fewer than 600 million inhabitants. 

The trouble is this trend does not so far include Africa, other than a few individual nations. Overall, low or rapidly declining birthrates remain the exception rather than the rule in most of Africa.

The populations of more than half of Africa’s 54 nations will double – or more – by 2050.

The continent will then be home to at least 25% of the world’s population, compared with less than 10% in 1950.

40% of all Africans are children under the age of 14 and in most African countries the median age is below 20.

African mothers will have about 450 million children in the 2020s. This is projected to rise to more than 550 million in the 2040s, about 40% of all children born worldwide in that decade. 

By 2050, a quarter of the world’s people will be African – this will shape our future | Edward Paice | The Guardian

Friday, January 21, 2022

Support your unions

 


Union membership in the U.S. declined by 241,000 workers in 2021.

 According to figures released Thursday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), overall U.S. union membership fell to 10.3% in 2021—down from 10.8% the previous year—even as public approval of unions rose to its highest point in nearly six decades.

Union membership's return to the historically low 2019 level in 2021 came in a year that also saw a number of high-profile strikes and successful organizing drives.

According to Cornell University's Labor Action Tracker, there were more than 360 strikes nationwide over the course of 2021.

One recent report estimated that the erosion of union membership cost the median U.S. worker $3,250 per year between 1979 and 2017.

The percentage of U.S. workers belonging to a union has been steadily declining for decades as corporate America and its right-wing allies in government—as well as in the judiciary—have waged a coordinated assault on organized labor, a campaign that has included so-called "right-to-work" laws and other anti-union measures.

Fetterman Calls Fall of Union Membership 'A National Disgrace' (commondreams.org)

The Pension Problem

 The UK’s state pension payment system is not fit for purpose, resulting in the “shameful shambles” of an underpayment scandal that left tens of thousands of pensioners short-changed, according to a scathing report from a committee of MPs, the public accounts committee (PAC).

Last year it emerged that the DWP was estimating it had underpaid 134,000 pensioners, mostly women, a total of more than £1bn of state pension cash that they were entitled to.

The National Audit Office said this long-term underpayment of state pensioners – some problems date as far back as 1985 – was the result of repeated errors that were almost inevitable amid complex rules and outdated IT systems.

It emerged that those affected that the DWP could trace would be paid an average of £8,900 each.

The report stated that the pension payment system “is not fit for purpose”, and set out a series of recommendations.

The committee said the department was now on its ninth go at fixing the mistakes since 2018, and that this “comes at great cost to the taxpayer” – the bill for staff costs alone is expected to top £24m by the end of 2023.

The MPs also said the DWP had “left people in the dark over their entitlement”, adding: “The department also admits that many other pensioners are under-claiming their state pension … these pensioners need clearer information to act or risk missing out on significant sums.”

UK state pension systems not fit for purpose – MPs’ report | Older people | The Guardian