National responses - Oct 10
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Gwynne Dyer, Common Dreams
"This is now the great mystery of Brazilian politics: what will Marina do?" "Marina" is Marina Silva, leader of Brazil's Green Party, and the speaker, Altino Machado, is a journalist and one of her oldest friends. But Marina has already done something remarkable: she persuaded one-fifth of Brazil's voters to support the Green Party.
Twenty percent is the second-highest share of the vote ever won by any Green Party anywhere. (The record-holder is Antanas Mockus, the Green candidate in the recent election in Colombia, who got 27 percent of the vote.) But Brazil, with more than 200 million people, is the country that really counts in South America, and what has happened there is, in the words of the Rio de Janeiro paper O Dia, a "green tsunami."
Among other things, this remarkable result makes Marina Silva the king-maker in the second round of the Brazilian election. It was the votes that went to her that deprived Workers' Party candidate Dilma Roussef of victory in the first round of voting on 4 October. To win in the first round, a candidate must get 50 percent of the vote; "Dilma" ended up with 46.9 percent.
So now Marina (they are both known by their first names) must decide whether to tell her supporters to vote for Dilma in the second round of the election on 31 October, or to give their votes to the relatively conservative runner-up in the first round, Jose Serra. Greens are generally assumed to be on the left, but it is not a foregone conclusion that Marina will back the Workers' Party candidate.
... What's really interesting here is the emergence, two decades after the restoration of democracy, of what you might call Brazil's political personality.
All three big political parties, the Workers' Party, Serra's Social Democrats, and the Greens, are on the left in terms of economic policy, though Marxist ranters are scarce in all of them. Social conservatives are still well represented in the latter two parties, but they all promise to continue Lula's wonder-working brand of pragmatic socialism. Together, they got 98 percent of the vote in the elections on 4 October.
The rapid rise of the Greens is linked to Brazilians' growing awareness that they are the custodians of the world's largest tropical forest, the Amazon, and that it is in serious danger from global warming. That may explain why 85 percent of Brazilians think that climate change is a major problem, while only 37 percent of Americans do.
(9 October 2010)
Syriana: Yours to stream or download
This Saturday, don't miss the chance to watch the politically-charged Syriana, courtesy of blinkbox.
George Clooney turns off the charm to deliver an Oscar-winning performance in this political thriller, also starring Matt Damon and Jeffrey Wright.
To stream or download your gift from blinkbox (worth £5.99) simply follow the instructions below:
(9 October 2010)
A promotion from the Guardian. However you get the movie, "Syriana" is well worth the watch: an intelligent film that goes into the politics and foreign policy implications of our reliance on oil. The plot is complex, so you may have to watch it several times to completely understand it. -BA
Look past China's smog and noise and you can see greener action
Damian Carrington, Guardian
... Chongqing is Gotham meets MegaCityOne meets the 21st century – China's century. I'm told 1,000 cars a day join the roads – from the traffic jams I can believe it – and that city maps are out of date the moment they are printed. The municipality is home to 33 million people and its economy grew 14% in 2009. This growth-on-steroids needs energy, steel, concrete, and the murky air is thick with the pollution that comes with that.
What is driving the city's growth? The manufacturing of 1m cars and 2m motorbikes a year, with the help of Ford and Suzuki; the burgeoning chemicals industry (BP); and many of the 1.2-1.5 million people who lost their homes when the Three Gorges dam flooded the valleys.
Ironically, I'm here to give a talk for the British Council about reporting on low-carbon living to local journalists, officials and academics. I'm wondering where I can possibly start.
But, as the evening flows, green shoots appear. Chongqing has recognised its problem with a five-point action plan to make the city "safe, smooth [to travel], liveable, forested and healthy". New buildings must meet tough energy efficiency standards or they cannot be sold. And from next year a train with an average speed of 100mph will rocket people the 900 miles to Shanghai.
(6 October 2010)