I have this reoccurring dream that we can learn to understand our world and ourselves and how we can build a better world by sharing our reading lists while adding our own perspectives. To that end I will continue to make up this Thursday Reader and hope that it both informs and invites others to join in the conversation. My big new year’s wish is that others will join me in this online reading group for activists!

Send submissions to ngreynoldsng at gmail dot com.

The Activist Thursday Reader Thursday, December 17, 2015

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More Than A Few Bad Eggs: Industrial Farms Exploiting ‘Organic’ Label for Profit

http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/12/15/more-few-bad-eggs-industrial-farms-exploiting-organic-label-profit

Yes, our worst fears about organic labeling are simply the way the corporate world responds when they see the potential for windfall profits. A large share of the “organic, free range” eggs we pay a premium for in the super market are simply a corporate farce. Sometimes outright fraud and sometimes just an elaborately concocted illusion. A few hens get a tiny bit of free range and the whole 5000+ flock is labeled as free range. Or “free range” means a tiny cubicle they can hardly turn around in is labeled as “free range.” “Veggie Fed” seems the only mostly reliable label. Over and over it seems that if you want real/healthy food –buy local. Corporate giants are just a big pile of money trying to become a bigger pile of money—at our expense.

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This WTO Ruling Is Perfect Example of How Big Trade Deals Drumpf Democracy

http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/12/07/wto-ruling-perfect-example-how-big-trade-deals-trump-democracy

Even when one of these investor state rulings by a small group of corporate lackeys that have no accountability to our legal system goes the way of our (Canadian) corporate interests it is clearly just about corporate interests and in no way about the interests of people or our planet.

NAFTA partners can sue the U.S. for a combined $1 billion annually in retaliatory tariffs over Country of Origin Labels for meat

This WTO decision penalies the U.S. for a law requiring Country of Original Labels for packaged meats– essential information to allow consumer choice around the treatment of animals welfare, environmental and public health. Again we all lose because these decisions are always about investor interests. This issue is fascinating because it so violates the idea of markets informed by consumer choice—the hardcore arguments for the “rationality” and “wisdom” of the marketplace. If consumers can’t know about the products they buy, how can they make rational choices?

“The ruling comes just two weeks after the WTO also ruled that U.S. “dolphin-safe” tuna labeling poses a “technical barrier to trade” that must be eliminated or weakened.”

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Paris Agreement Marks A Global Shift For Climate Action

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/david-suzuki/paris-climate-agreement_b_8815738.html

If you are looking for a positive view of the outcome of United Nations climate conference in Paris this article by David Suzuki it the one to read.

According to Suzuki—Canada’s premier environmentalist–when our children’s children look back to what we did to keep our planet livable, they may see this year’s as a turning point.

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COP21: Any agreement is better than no agreement?

Lofty language and idealistic goals won’t stop global warming.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2015/12/cop21-agreement-agreement-paris-climate-151215101705854.html

If you are looking for an article that looks at the limitations of the much heralded COP21 agreement, this article by Nick Fillmore is the best I found.

In Fillmore’s words””

“As politicians will do, they convinced themselves and as many people as possible in their home nations that the accord signed by 195 countries was an amazing breakthrough document.

Such enthusiasm was extremely premature.”

“They don’t lead us to 1.5 degrees Celsius or 2 degrees. They lead us to warming of 3 to 4 degrees Celsius, which is beyond catastrophic.”

The only check on government performances will be audits carried out every five years.

And how will governments be kept honest? Officials claimed that countries that miss their targets could be shamed into doing better.”

For all my immense respect for David Suzuki and his valiant efforts to save us from destroying the very Earth upon which we depend for essentials like—our life!, Fillmore’s expose of the weak enforcement mechanisms in the COP21 accord seem to strongly suggest a lot of high sounding fluff with little attention to the real world of what it takes to confront the most powerful corporate interests that our Earth has ever faced. Can you imagine taking this idea of meaningful implementation to the unending wars over middle east oil? Can you imagine any of these politicians that are proclaiming their accomplishments at Paris getting up at a conference on dealing with the ISIS threat and saying” Ah, we’ve got this one nailed! We’re going to shame ISIS into withdrawing from Syria and Iraq and shame them into giving up oil revenues and shame them into being nice to people who do not share their religious beliefs?

It seems to me Fillmore has good reason to be skeptical though he does say that it is good world leaders have finally—at least—stated that climate change is a very serious threat.

However: “Largely because of the power corporations wield, the COP21 agreement includes mostly business-friendly market place solutions.

Because no action was taken against fracking, the practice, which produces highly damaging methane gas, will increase.” The agreement is left to kind of hope that investors—the only thing they are truly motivated by—will be scared off by the potential loss of profits is people turn away from fossil fuels. And there is the thing I want to talk more about in my next post—how people can make choices that simply end run the government and corporate interests, AND could drive real change!

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By Sharing Prosperity Most Evenly, Norway Wins Again

http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/12/16/sharing-prosperity-most-evenly-norway-wins-again

UN’s Human Development Index ranked Norway number 1.

“For the 12th year in a row, Norway has earned the honor of being listed as the best country in the world to live. “ This distinction is based on factors including life expectancy at birth, average years of schooling, and gross national income per capita. Norway has over time managed to increase its income, and at the same time ensured that incomes are relatively evenly distributed,” Jens Wandel, head of UNDP’s administrative department, told the Norwegian News Agency.

This is fascinating because apparently Norway and its one million dollar per person heritage fund that it has accumulated from a resource royalty fund that focuses on return to citizens before return to investors was one of the prime influences on the provincial election in Alberta that saw the –almost unthinkable—election of a majority NDP government in Alberta.