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Is Pope Francis The World’s Most Powerful Advocate For Environmental Stability?

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Maybe not now. But that’s what he could well become. Francis’ Encyclical “On Care for Our Common Home” recognizes the incredible damage being done to the climate and biodiversity. Few realize how strong his beliefs are and the unused power of persuasion he possesses. Here are 10 ways that power could be used.

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1. Francis could call for a renewed emphasis on abstaining from red meat on Fridays.

Francis unequivocally recognizes the need for environmental stability: “The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. . . . A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system.” [23]

He gives no quarter to climate change deniers, writing, “Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions.” [14]

Missing from Francis’ Encyclical is the massive scientific evidence that meat is probably the single most important contributor to greenhouse gases (GHGs). Meat production (beef, chicken, pork) produces more GHGs that either the transportation sector or all industrial processes.

Some believe that meat production could account for much more than the 18-20% of GHGs if other factors were taken into account, such as livestock respiration, medical care of livestock, full loss of land used for meat production, and packaging, refrigerating, cooking, and disposing of meat.

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Francis affirms the “urgent need to develop policies” to address climate change [26]. There is probably no better way to develop a policy to reduce GHGs than resurrecting the emphasis on meatless Fridays.

2. Francis could ask religious leaders throughout the world to consider a day without red meat.

This raises two big questions: Would a pope try to influence non-Catholics? and, Would non-Catholics pay attention to a Catholic tradition? Francis clearly understands that the extent of environmental crises goes beyond his own church when he says “I wish to address every person living on this planet” regarding “our common home.” [3]

In wondering about the potential response from non-Catholics, I recall going to elementary school in Houston during the McCarthy era of the 1950s. It was not a particularly tolerant time or place. The proportion of Catholics at my school was tiny – not more than 3-4%. When I asked my teacher why we had fish cakes every Friday, she said, “It’s because the Catholic kids aren’t supposed to eat meat on Fridays.” That seemed reasonable. And it was okay with everyone else. Not one kid ever challenged a school that was over 90% non-Catholic adjusting its meals to accommodate a meatless Friday.

Might non-Catholics of today move from a passive acceptance of meatless Fridays to actively participate in a joint effort to halt environmental devastation? Francis is hopeful when he says, “Outside the Catholic Church, other Churches and Christian communities – and other religions as well – have expressed deep concern and offered valuable reflections on issues which all of us find disturbing.” [7]

Millions of people are searching for ways to have a meaningful effect on the climate. Most individual behaviours either have little impact on the big picture or are out of the reach of many people. For example, individuals who live 20 miles from work cannot really choose to ride a bike or take mass transit that does not exist.

Choice of food is different — it is something that most people can do by themselves. New eating habits, adopted by enough people, might dramatically influence the world’s climate.

3. Francis could ask governments to ensure that those who receive their livelihood from the livestock sector are protected from harm by decreased consumption of meat.

Over 1.3 billion people depend on livestock for income. This could make for a very long unemployment line and a lot of hostility toward vegetarianism. In addition to those who raise livestock, livelihoods that derive from it include manufacturing ranch equipment and supplies, growing animal feed, transportation, and sales of animal products such as leather.

Workers in all these industries are highly sensitive to the economics of livestock reduction. They must be a core part of planning for economic transition. A transformation would need to include projects that demonstrate how changing from a cattle ranch into growing crops (or other economic activity) can successfully occur. This would also include educational programs on how to make such changes, as well as proposals for new jobs for those currently working in livestock-dependent industries.

The U.S. is a rich country that can afford to be a model for the rest of the world. We could guarantee an income equal to what families relying on animals currently make if they agree to transition to plant-based agriculture for human food.

4. Francis could recommend that Catholics not eat any meat (including fowl and fish) on Mondays.

This would be a bold step, going beyond reemphasizing what is already Catholic doctrine. Yet, it would be consistent with Francis’ belief that the world has a “sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.” [2]

Overproduction of meat has horrible effects beyond climate change. The livestock sector accounts for over a third of global land area, which makes it a major contributor to deforestation, habitat destruction, and species extinction. According to the Food & Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, livestock production is responsible for 55% of erosion, 37% of pesticide usage, and 50% of antibiotic usage.

There is already an embryo of the needed change in the “Meatless Monday” movement. A serious effort toward stewardship of the Earth requires a halt in the expansion of land which is used for livestock and then a progressive increase in acres of land returned to wild Nature.

5. Francis could ask religious leaders to consider a day without any meat (including fowl and fish).

Papal Encyclicals are recommendations — they are not commandments. Thus, an Encyclical by Francis recommending meatless Mondays would mean that Catholics would need to decide to what extent they should follow it.

Inspiring controversy would actually be better than ordering people to eat less meat. Once folks argue and haggle, the issue sticks to their minds. Those who do something because of their own choice are much more committed once they have made a decision.

A debate between the world’s 1.2 million Catholics would not be ignored by other religions. In fact, it could be a powerful impetus for a Great Discussion regarding how people can effectively impact climate change.

If Francis were to take such an audacious stand within the Catholic Church, he would elevate his ability to ask other religious leaders to step outside of their roles established hundreds or thousands of years ago to similarly recognize the profound threat to Life on Earth. What could be more helpful than several billion people questioning how actions during the next few decades will affect the existence of generations to come?

6. Francis could precaution the world against using vegetarianism as a weapon of cultural domination.

Of particular concern are non-Brahmin Indians and American Cowboys. Most of the world’s 1.1 billion Hindus live in India, which is often assumed to be overwhelmingly vegetarian. In fact, over two-thirds of Indians eat meat.

While Hindus do not have a strict ban on eating meat, most avoid doing so because they wish to minimize harming other life forms. Indians who do eat meat eat far less than do Americans. They include young people exposed to Western lifestyles and religious minorities of Muslims and Christians. According to Priti Gulati Cox, they also include “Dalits (formerly known as untouchables) and Adivasis (Indigenous communities),” who are victims of “Hindu-centric cultural imposition.”

In his article “Beef ban is an attempt to impose upper-caste culture on other Hindus” Dalit Professor Kancha Ilaiah explains that eating meat has always been a part of Dalit food culture. Since water buffalo meat is cheap, it is their major source of protein. He sees the current attempt by Brahmins to impose a beef ban as “casteist and racist.” Non- Brahmin Indians particularly resent attempts to ban eating beef when India is a major exporter of water buffalo meat, which is not considered sacred by upper castes.

Glance a few thousand miles away to the U.S. Many people in western states are very hostile to having a lifestyle imposed upon them by what they perceive as urban elitism. Some do things that harm their own health and welfare to preserve their customs. (Witness 2016 Presidential voting patterns.) In this way, they are not so different from India’s Dalits and Adivasis who strongly resist having Brahmin vegetarianism imposed on them.

The issue is how to present a change away from overconsumption of meat without devaluing their culture or creating massive unemployment. There is no magic bullet. But the answer must include a dialogue and understanding that eating less meat at each meal has as much effect as having some meals without meat.

In fact, the small portion of meat eaten means that Indians already have much less environmental impact than do Americans. Instead of being grain-fed, cattle and water buffalo in India typically eat vegetation from land unsuitable for farming, further reducing their harmful effects.

Yet, we must keep our eye on the prize. Giving up smoking and having unprotected sex with multiple partners have both been sub-cultural values that came into conflict with objective facts. Campaigns became effective when former smokers spoke out and when gay men themselves advised new behaviours. Attempts to reduce meat consumption will be counter-effective unless they include those American Cowboys who already question the quantity of meat eaten.

7. Francis could recommend that Catholics eat no animal flesh or animal products (including eggs, milk, and cheese) on Wednesdays.

The tradition of not eating meat on Fridays comes with the idea of doing without something for Lent. Not eating red meat for three days a week, no meat of any kind for two days a week, and no animal products one day a week would transform the concept of “doing without” to mean “doing without to preserve our common home.”

This is the sort of sacrifice that Francis hints at when he says calls on humanity “to recognize the need for changes in lifestyle.” [23] He quotes approvingly of the leader of Eastern Orthodox Church stating that “to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin.” [8]

This reflects the belief in man’s stewardship over nature shared by Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The responsibility to preserve Life in all forms is an impossibility if ranchland and farms for animal feed continue to expand their destruction of wildlife habitat throughout the world.

How can the desire to protect wild Nature best be expressed? Recognizing that food travels over 1,000 miles from “farm to plate” has led many to become “locavores” who seek to eat food grown close to where they live. However, research demonstrates that not eating red meat and dairy for less than one day per week “achieves more GHG reduction than buying all locally sourced food.”

8. Francis could suggest to those of other faiths that they join him in setting aside an additional day for eating no animal flesh or animal products.

Clearly, millions of Catholics combining a locavore diet with a meatless diet for multiple days per week would have a profound impact on GHG emissions. Imagine the effect if billions of people did so.

Participants would make two important discoveries. First, food can taste good if it does not include red meat, if it does not include any animal flesh, and even if it does not include any animal products. As this realization spreads, an increasing number of restaurants would offer non-animal dishes on a regular basis. There would be more cooks realizing that vegetarian food is not the same as the current diet without meat but represents a different approach to preparing food entirely. Many people would voluntarily change to eating less meat during each meal and eating more meals without meat.

Second, reduction in eating meat would have profound health effects. High meat consumption is associated heart disease, obesity, and colorectal cancer. Health improvement would occur not only in Western countries, but also China, where meat consumption has zoomed upwards. Combined discoveries of taste and health could well reinforce each other as people realized that they would not be giving up good food to have a better quality of life.

9. Francis could urge the world to recognize the need for humane treatment as well as humane killing of animals.

Both Muslims and Jews are prohibited from eating meat from animals killed in a cruel way. Jews include humane killing as part of kosher meat and, for Muslims, it is halal meat. At the time those rules were written, there was no such thing as factory farms (Confined Animal Feeding Operations, CAFOs).

A twenty-first century extension of ancient laws would recognize that CAFOs practice a merciless process of killing by slow torture. Confinement of animals in tiny cages is so unhealthy that CAFOs routinely pump antibiotics into them so they will live long enough to be slaughtered.

Treating (and killing) animals in a humane fashion is close to a universally accepted value. CAFO owners are so worried that people would be horrified if they saw how they operate that they go to great lengths lobbying for laws that criminalize filming how animals are treated.

It is highly unlikely that the meat industry can continue to grow without an expansion of CAFOs. National laws and international treaties banning CAFOs should parallel an increase in plant-based diets. A call by Francis for humane treatment of animals, with a specific request that CAFOs be banned, would be an enormous contribution to reducing animal cruelty, meat consumption, and GHGs.

10. Francis could request a global inquiry into the need to begin shorter work weeks in a world which consumes less meat.

Since producing 1 pound of beef protein requires 10 pounds of vegetable protein, obtaining sufficient protein from vegetables will require vastly less cultivation. Just as fair trade means less trade, a world which relies on less meat will be one which needs less labour.

The livestock industry is merely one piece of an economy that must be massively reduced for human survival. Vegetarian agriculture is a bit analogous to a peace economy. Vegetarian production requires different use of land, but more importantly, use of less land. Peace economics emphasizes having fewer weapons to kill people rather than killing people with different weapons.

It is not possible to have less meat, less war, fewer toxic chemicals, less extractions of fossil fuels, fewer products (including homes) designed to fall apart, and more wild Nature in an economy that is growing exponentially. More astute than many progressives, Francis recognizes the dangers of unlimited economic expansion when he nods approval to “correcting models of growth which have proved incapable of ensuring respect for the environment.” [5]

We need a smaller economy which focuses on providing basic needs for every person on the planet. This means a shorter — a much shorter — work week.

Producing less is only the first step in solving or reducing environmental problems. Of course, changes in production will be very different in various industries; so, environmentally sound economics requires considerable planning, education, adjustment, and readjustment.

This train of thought runs counter to capitalism, whose First Commandment is growth.

Francis has not been particularly receptive to capitalists, along with their politicians. They are left out of the equation when he calls for heeding “the reflections of numerous scientists, philosophers, theologians and civic groups.” [7] He warns that “Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms.” [26]

Neither is Francis receptive to “Technology, which, linked to business interests, is presented as the only way of solving these problems, in fact proves incapable of seeing the mysterious network of relations between things and so sometimes solves one problem only to create others.” [20] He spells out concerns with the latest step in capital accumulation: “Even as the quality of available water is constantly diminishing, in some places there is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market. Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right.” [30]

Bringing It Home

We can’t explore every religion; but, now that we’ve looked at Catholicism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam, let’s consider my religion of devout atheism. Devout atheism is quite different from dogmatic atheism, whose dedication to putting down religion has much in common with narrow-minded adherents within the religions it belittles.

Devout atheism feels a connection with the natural world that would be quite receptive to an encyclical from Francis that specified actions to protect Earth. Dogmatic atheists would, of course, reject anything from a Pope because they often worship money and power as do their dogmatic counterparts in the powerful religions.

The division of world is not between Catholic vs. Protestant, Muslim vs. Jew, Hindu vs. Adivasi, or pious vs. atheist. Rather, the great division is those of every belief who exalt the preservation of Nature vs. those who fantasize that happiness flows from possession of an ever greater quantity of objects.

Attaining a 100% vegan world overnight is not going to happen. Instead, we should work toward a huge reduction in meat production by (a) encouraging heavy meat eaters to decrease their portions, (b) encouraging moderate meat eaters to increase their vegetarian days, and (c) expanding the number of vegetarians and vegans, while (d) avoiding domination of meat-eating cultures, and (e) preparing for the economic disruptions which will inevitably accompany changes of the magnitude that must happen. Securing alliances and modifying approaches are possible without compromising the goal of vastly reducing the amount of meat produced.

Note: Numbers in brackets indicate the section of “On Care for Our Common Home” from which the quotation is take.

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The Anatomy of Conspiracy Theories

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Whether you believe in conspiracy theories or not, we can all agree that the use of the term has exploded in media and in conversation. The question is, why? Are we now using the term “Conspiracy Theory” more indiscriminately and on more platforms than previously? Are we, as a society, simply becoming unhinged and absurd? Are seemingly nonsensical stories, for some unknown reason, starting to resonate with people? Or are some conventional narratives getting challenged because some of these “alternative” explanations are in fact accurate, despite the fact that conventional sources refuse to acknowledge them as even potentially valid? Notice that the last two possibilities are different sides of the same coin. If you think  “conspiracy theorists” are unhinged, it is highly likely that they are suspicious of your sanity as well. Both sides insist that they are right and that the other has been hoodwinked. Note that if you choose to not pick a side, you are, by default, allowing the conventional narrative to perpetuate. That is how convention works. 

Merriam-Webster defines the term conspiracy theory as “a theory that explains an event or situation as the result of a secret plan by usually powerful people or groups”. The key elements of this definition remain consistent across all authoritative lexicons: the group responsible for an event must be powerful and covert. However, if we refer to the Wikipedia definition as of 11/2018 a new element emerges: “A conspiracy theory is an explanation of an event or situation that invokes a conspiracy—generally one involving an illegal or harmful act supposedly carried out by government or other powerful actors—without credible evidence.”

When an explanation is labeled a “Conspiracy Theory,” by today’s definition, it has no evidence to support it. An explanation with no supporting evidence is a hypothesis, not a “theory.” “Conspiracy Theory,” as it is used today, is thus an oxymoron. These “Conspiracy Theories” we seem to hear about everyday should really be called “Conspiracy Hypotheses.” More concerning is that the “Conspiracy Theory” label identifies an explanation as inherently baseless. Given this linguistic construct, where is there room for a conspiracy that is in fact true?

There is also something troubling about using the term “credible” in the definition of conspiracy theory. Legally, evidence that is credible is that which a reasonable person would consider to be true in light of the surrounding circumstances. If evidence suggests an explanation that seems at the surface to be unreasonable, how does a reasonable person avoid automatically labeling the evidence not credible? If we are not careful, the credibility of the explanation and resultant conclusions would then determine the credibility of the evidence that supports it. Is this really so important? Perhaps you are quick to see that with this approach, our understanding of what is true and real can never evolve. If any evidence arose that radically disproved our understanding or eroded our faith in trusted institutions we would automatically discard it as “not credible” and remain entrenched in our accepted paradigm. “Credible” evidence cannot be a necessary requirement of a theory that challenges what is credible to begin with.

To better illustrate this, let us consider an old but very real “conspiracy theory.” About 400 years ago, European civilization was emerging from centuries of scientific and philosophical stagnation known as the dark ages. What more befitting a place for such a renaissance to occur than the center of the universe? You see, the idea that the Earth was one of eight planets revolving around a star that is orbiting the center of one of hundreds of billions of galaxies would have been absurd in Europe in the sixteenth century. Any sane person could see that the Sun and the Moon and every celestial body rises in the East and sets in the West. At that time, if someone went about proposing the idea that everything rises and falls because the Earth was spinning, they would have been laughed out of the tavern. Would that person be a conspiracy theorist? They are not proposing that “powerful actors are carrying out a harmful act,” they are merely suggesting an alternative explanation for what is observed. However, the implication of their suggestion seems to incriminate the authority on such matters as ignorant of the truth or, possibly, the perpetrators of a lie. The possibility of a conspiracy has now been introduced.

Now, let us say that this person claims to have proof of their absurd theory. Would you have taken the time to examine the evidence or would you have been more likely to dismiss them without further consideration? The very idea that they could be right would have been not just silly or heretical, but inconceivable to many, if not all. How could the evidence be credible if it implied something inconceivable? Dismissing their idea would have seemingly been the most logical and, therefore, the smartest thing to do.

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When Galileo Galilei appeared in 1610 armed with a rudimentary “telescope,” few would peer into it. He claimed that the refractive properties of the pair of “lenses” would allow you to see things at great distances very clearly. With it one could see Jupiter and its moons revolving around the giant planet just as our moon revolves around Earth. How enchanting! The difficulty would arise when you put the telescope down: your feet would no longer be planted on the previously immovable center of creation. Would you have looked into his telescope? What would have been the harm in taking a peek? Certainly the fear of being proven more gullible than most would have been on your mind. What about the fear that he might be right?

Imagine what must have been going through Galileo’s mind after his monumental discovery. He saw irrefutably that the entire model of the universe had been completely misconceived. One just has to look. Most did not. I can only imagine how hard he must have tried to convince anyone to simply stop, look and listen to what he had discovered. At the time, Galileo was the Chair of Mathematics at the University of Padua and had previously held the same post at the University of Pisa. Despite his bonafides and reputation as a solid contributor to the Italian renaissance, his discovery would likely have died in obscurity if it weren’t for the support of an influential family, the Medicis, who offered Galileo a platform from which he could spread his theory. It was only through allying himself with political power that he was able to slowly generate interest in his heliocentric model of the solar system. His proposition eventually caught the attention of the Catholic church, who initially warned him to desist. Eventually, he was brought to trial in the Roman Inquisition 23 years after his discovery. At the age of 70, the intrepid mathematician and astronomer was allowed to return home if he agreed to recant his story. Instead Galileo chose to spend the rest of his years in prison because he believed that that would be the only way to get people to open their eyes.

Did it work? It did not. Galileo died incarcerated while Europe continued to slumber under stars that moved around them. By today’s standards, Galileo would have been labeled a Conspiracy Theorist from the day he announced his findings until he was proven right fifty years after his death.  When the Principle of Gravitational Attraction eventually became widely accepted as true, the church had to retract their position because the motions of the stars and planets could not be explained under Newton’s laws. 

On the other hand, Galileo is credited with being the father of not only observational astronomy, but of the scientific method as well. The scientific method demands that one tests an explanation without bias towards an outcome. All data is considered before deductions are made. When all other explanations have been proven wrong, the only explanation remaining becomes a theory. The theory persists as long as all subsequent experiments continue to uphold it. This is how we ultimately know what we know and have an inkling of what we don’t. If I had to choose a posthumous title for myself, “The Father of the Scientific Method” is one I could die with. Galileo is credited with this honorific not only because he valued it more than his freedom, but because he had the discipline to regard evidence objectively despite how unimaginable the implications were. This is how a body of knowledge expands. By considering the validity of the evidence first, we then can accept what was previously unimaginable, otherwise what we know tomorrow will be no different than what we know today.

All conspiracy theorists are not Galileos. Neither are all conspiracy theories true. However, can we be certain that all of them are false? At their very core, all conspiracy theories directly or indirectly point at a central authority acting covertly and simultaneously at the media for either missing it or looking the other way. This, of course, is unimaginable, as we all know the government can make mistakes but would never do anything intentionally harmful to its citizens and then hide it. Even if they did, somebody would come forward and the media would let us know about it. This is why such a deception could never occur. The idea that your lover could be in bed with your best friend is inconceivable. Evidence of such a thing would not be credible. Dismissing all conspiracy theories seems logical and therefore seems like the smartest thing to do. 

In “Sapiens”, Yuval Harari proposes an explanation for why our species, Sapiens, out fought, out thought and out survived all other Homo species on the planet. He suggests that it was our unique ability to describe and communicate situations and events that had no basis in reality which set us apart. In other words, we could tell stories and they could not. By uniting under a common idea, story or even myth, thousands (and now thousands of millions) of Sapiens could come together with a shared purpose, identity or belief system to disband our cousins who were as individuals more sturdy and just as cunning but not nearly as good at cooperating as we were. This advantage, Harari proposes, has not only led our species to eventual supremacy over all others, but has also allowed us to form communities, governments and global alliances. 

Siding with the majority has served us well–until it hasn’t. One only needs to revisit the history of Galileo and basic astronomy to understand this. In actuality, the first observant minds woke up to the fact that the Earth went around the sun and not the other way round nineteen centuries before Galileo did. The Greek mathematician, Aristarcus, is thought to be the first Western person to place the Sun in the middle of a “solar system” in 270 BC. A human being traveled to the moon just 360 years after Galileo “discovered” what Aristarcus had shown nearly two millennia before. How many centuries was this journey delayed because an alternative explanation in ancient Greece became a “conspiracy theory” against authority and convention?

This poses an intriguing question. Is there something hardwired in our behavioral patterns that push us towards conformist narratives and away from alternative ones at a precognitive level? Is it this tendency that gave rise to our enhanced ability to unite that keeps us in “group-think” more than we should be? How do we know we are looking at the world objectively and rejecting alternative belief systems from a purely rational basis? How does one know whether one is biased or not?

One way is to apply the scientific method. The scientific method demands that every possibility, no matter how outlandish, is tested for its veracity and dismissed only when it can be proven wrong. Without this objective pursuit of truth, misconceptions can persist indefinitely, just as the geocentric model of the universe did. Interestingly, Aristarcus was allowed to retain his theory because he lived at a time and place where philosophers, mathematicians and scientists were revered, protected and free to pursue their notions. The freedom ancient Greek society afforded its scientists only endured for a few centuries after Aristarcus lived. In Galileo’s day, the Roman Catholic church had been presiding over such things as facts for well over a thousand years. His incontrovertible proof was suppressed by the power that had the most to lose.

These days, establishing the facts of the matter may not be as easy as we presume. Conspiracy theorists claim to have proof just like the debunkers do. How do we know that the proof offered on either side is valid? Who has the time to apply the scientific method? It certainly seems safer to go with the conventional narrative because surely there are more rational minds in a larger group. Though it seems a reasonable approach, it may be in fact where we misstep. By deferring to others, we assume the majority will arrive at the truth eventually. The problem is that those in the majority who are trained to examine evidence objectively often must take a potentially career-ending risk to even investigate an alternative explanation. Why would an organization be willing to invest the resources to redirect their scientific staff to chase down and evaluate evidence that will likely endanger their reputation with the public without any upside? Thus, conventional narratives survive for another day, or in the case of an Earth-centered universe, for a couple of thousand years.

Whether or not you are not a “conspiracy theorist” we can all agree that there is a possibility, however slight, that some conventional narratives could be wrong. How would we know? Is there a source that we can trust 100%? Must we rely on our own wits? A short inquiry into this question can be disquieting. Most of us must admit that our understanding of history, science and geopolitics are merely stories that we have been told by people, institutions or media that we trust explicitly or implicitly. Because most of us are not authorities on anything, it would be impossible to overturn any conventional narrative with an evidentiary argument. Challenging these paradigms is necessarily left to others. Generally speaking, there is no real reason to argue with convention if everything is seemingly unfolding acceptably. But what if you wanted to know for yourself ? Is there any way to ever really know the truth without having to have faith in someone or something else?

There may not be. However, it is also naive to believe that if someone, scientist or not, was in possession of evidence that challenged our deepest held beliefs that it would take root in the ethos on its own. Galileo enjoyed unsurpassed credibility as one of Italy’s foremost mathematicians. He also possessed irrefutable, verifiable and reproducible evidence for his revolutionary theory, yet the convention he was challenging did not crumble through his discoveries. History has shown us that it makes no difference how valid a point is; truth emerges only when someone is listening

So, rather than seeking to independently validate or refute what we are being told, it becomes more productive to ask a different question: How biased is our society by historical standards? How does our society regard alternative theories? Do we let them co-exist with convention as the ancient Greeks did? Do we collectively invest resources to investigate them openly? Or do we dismiss, attack and vilify them as was done in the papal states in Galileo’s time? Which kind of society is more likely to get it right? Which runs the greater risk of being hoodwinked in the long run? Which is more free?

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US House of Representatives Investigating if the Government Created Lyme Disease As A Bioweapon

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A New Jersey lawmaker suggests the government turned ticks and insects into bioweapons to spread disease, and possibly released them. He is not the only one who believes so.

  • Reflect On:

    This is not the only example of supposed human experimentation on mass populations by the government

There are a number of subjects that were once considered ‘conspiracy theories,’ which are now no longer in that realm. ‘Conspiracy theories’ usually, in my opinion, arise from credible evidence. The implications, however, are so grand and so mind-altering that many may experience some sort of cognitive dissonance as a result. One of the topics often deemed a ‘conspiracy theory’ is weaponized diseases, and the latest example comes from an approved amendment that was proposed by a Republican congressman from New Jersey. His name is Chris Smith, and he instructed the Department of Defence’s Inspector General to conduct a review on whether or not the US “experimented with ticks and insects regarding use as a biological weapon between the years of 1950 and 1975” and “whether any ticks or insects used in such experiment were released outside of any laboratory by accident or experiment design.”

The fact that Smith brought this up shows that any intelligent person who actually looks into this has reason to believe it’s a possibility, yet mainstream media outlets are ridiculing the idea, calling it a conspiracy instead of actually bringing up the points that caused Smith to demand the review.

The fact that the amendment was approved by a vote in the House speaks volumes. Smith said that the amendment was inspired by “a number of books and articles suggesting that significant research had been done at US government facilities including Fort Detrick, Maryland, and Plum Island, New York, to turn ticks and insects into bioweapons”.

Most people don’t know that the US government has experimented on its own citizens a number of times. All of this is justified for “national security” purposes. National security has always been a term used as an excuse to prolong secrecy, justify the government’s lack of transparency, and create black budget programs that have absolutely no oversight from Congress.

For example, on September 20, 1950, a US Navy ship just off the coast of San Francisco used a giant hose to spray a cloud of microbes into the air and into the city’s famous fog. The military was apparently testing how a biological weapon attack would affect the 800,000 residents of the city.The people of San Francisco had absolutely no idea. The Navy continued the tests for seven days, and multiple people died as a result. It was apparently one of the first large-scale biological weapon trials that would be conducted under a “germ warfare testing program” that went on for 20 years from 1949 to 1969. The goal “was to deter [the use of biological weapons] against the United States and its allies and to retaliate if deterrence failed,” the government later explained. Then again, that’s if you trust the explanation coming from the government.

This could fall under the category of human subject research. It’s still happening! A dozen classified programs that involved research on human subjects were underway last year at the Department of Energy. Human subject research refers broadly to the collection of scientific data from human subjects. This could involve performing physical procedures on the subjects or simply conducting interviews and having other forms of interaction with them. It could even involve procedures performed on entire populations, apparently without their consent.

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Human subjects research erupted into national controversy 25 years ago with reporting by Eileen Welsome of the Albuquerque Tribune on human radiation experiments that had been conducted by the Atomic Energy Commission, many of which were performed without the consent of the subjects. A presidential advisory committee was convened to document the record and to recommend appropriate policy responses.

When it comes to Lyme disease, the Guardian points out that:

A new book published in May by a Stanford University science writer and former Lyme sufferer, Kris Newby, has raised questions about the origins of the disease, which affects 400,000 Americans each year.

Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons, cites the Swiss-born discoverer of the Lyme pathogen, Willy Burgdorfer, as saying that the Lyme epidemic was a military experiment that had gone wrong.

Burgdorfer, who died in 2014, worked as a bioweapons researcher for the US military and said he was tasked with breeding fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and other blood-sucking insects, and infecting them with pathogens that cause human diseases.

According to the book, there were programs to drop “weaponised” ticks and other bugs from the air, and that uninfected bugs were released in residential areas in the US to trace how they spread. It suggests that such a scheme could have gone awry and led to the eruption of Lyme disease in the US in the 1960s.

This is concerning. It’s a story that, for some reason, instantly reminded me of the MK ultra program, where human subjects were used for mind control research.

If things like this occurred in the past, it’s hard to understand why someone would deem the possibility of this happening again a ‘conspiracy theory.’ What makes one think this wouldn’t be happening again, especially given the fact that there is sufficient evidence suggesting it is?

Lyme disease is also very strange. If you did get it, you probably wouldn’t know immediately – unless you’re one of the chronic sufferers that have had to visit over 30 doctors to get a proper diagnosis. Lyme disease tests are highly inaccurateoften inconclusive or indicating false negatives.

Why? Because this clever bacteria has found a way to dumb down the immune system and white blood cells so that it’s not detectable until treatment is initiated. To diagnose Lyme disease properly you must see a “Lyme Literate MD (LLMD).” However, more and more doctors are turning their backs on patients due to sheer fear of losing their practices! Insurance companies and the CDC will do whatever it takes to stop Chronic Lyme Disease from being diagnosed, treated, or widely recognized as an increasingly common issue.

You can read more about that here.

The Takeaway

It’s becoming more apparent that our government as well as our federal health regulatory agencies are extremely corrupt. There are a number of examples to choose from throughout history proving this. The fact that something like this doesn’t seem believable to the public is ridiculous and further enhances and prolongs the ability for the powerful elite and the government to continue conducting these activities. Awareness is key.

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Alternative News

The Medical Journals’ Sell-Out—Getting Paid to Play

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[Note: This is Part IX in a series of articles adapted from the second Children’s Health Defense eBook: Conflicts of Interest Undermine Children’s Health. The first eBook, The Sickest Generation: The Facts Behind the Children’s Health Crisis and Why It Needs to End, described how children’s health began to worsen dramatically in the late 1980s following fateful changes in the childhood vaccine schedule.]

The vaccine industry and its government and scientific partners routinely block meaningful science and fabricate misleading studies about vaccines. They could not do so, however, without having enticed medical journals into a mutually beneficial bargain. Pharmaceutical companies supply journals with needed income, and in return, journals play a key role in suppressing studies that raise critical questions about vaccine risks—which would endanger profits.

Journals are willing to accept even the most highly misleading advertisements. The FDA has flagged numerous instances of advertising violations, including ads that overstated a drug’s effectiveness or minimized its risks.

An exclusive and dependent relationship

Advertising is one of the most obviously beneficial ways that medical journals’ “exclusive and dependent relationship” with the pharmaceutical industry plays out. According to a 2006 analysis in PLOS Medicinedrugs and medical devices are the only products for which medical journals accept advertisements. Studies show that journal advertising generates “the highest return on investment of all promotional strategies employed by pharmaceutical companies.” The pharmaceutical industry puts a particularly “high value on advertising its products in print journals” because journals reach doctors—the “gatekeeper between drug companies and patients.” Almost nine in ten drug advertising dollars are directed at physicians.

In the U.S. in 2012, drug companies spent $24 billion marketing to physicians, with only $3 billion spent on direct-to-consumer advertising. By 2015, however, consumer-targeted advertising had jumped to $5.2 billion, a 60% increase that has reaped bountiful rewards. In 2015, Pfizer’s Prevnar-13 vaccine was the nation’s eighth most heavily advertised drug; after the launch of the intensive advertising campaign, Prevnar “awareness” increased by over 1,500% in eight months, and “44% of targeted consumers were talking to their physicians about getting vaccinated specifically with Prevnar.” Slick ad campaigns have also helped boost uptake of “unpopular” vaccines like Gardasil.

Advertising is such an established part of journals’ modus operandi that high-end journals such as The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) boldly invite medical marketers to “make NEJM the cornerstone of their advertising programs,” promising “no greater assurance that your ad will be seen, read, and acted upon.” In addition, medical journals benefit from pharmaceutical companies’ bulk purchases of thousands of journal reprints and industry’s sponsorship of journal subscriptions and journal supplements.

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In 2003, an editor at The BMJ wrote about the numerous ways in which drug company advertising can bias medical journals (and the practice of medicine)—all of which still hold true today. For example:

  • Advertising monies enable prestigious journals to get thousands of copies into doctors’ hands for free, which “almost certainly” goes on to affect prescribing.
  • Journals are willing to accept even the most highly misleading advertisements. The FDA has flagged numerous instances of advertising violations, including ads that overstated a drug’s effectiveness or minimized its risks.
  • Journals will guarantee favorable editorial mentions of a product in order to earn a company’s advertising dollars.
  • Journals can earn substantial fees for publishing supplements even when they are written by “paid industry hacks”—and the more favorable the supplement content is to the company that is funding it, the bigger the profit for the journal.

Discussing clinical trials, the BMJ editor added: “Major trials are very good for journals in that doctors around the world want to see them and so are more likely to subscribe to journals that publish them. Such trials also create lots of publicity, and journals like publicity. Finally, companies purchase large numbers of reprints of these trials…and the profit margin to the publisher is huge. These reprints are then used to market the drugs to doctors, and the journal’s name on the reprint is a vital part of that sell.”

… however, even these poor-quality studies—when funded by the pharmaceutical industry—got far more attention than equivalent studies not funded by industry.

Industry-funded bias

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), nearly three-fourths of all funding for clinical trials in the U.S.—presumably including vaccine trials—came from corporate sponsors as of the early 2000s. The pharmaceutical industry’s funding of studies (and investigators) is a factor that helps determine which studies get published, and where. As a Johns Hopkins University researcher has acknowledged, funding can lead to bias—and while the potential exists for governmental or departmental funding to produce bias, “the worst source of bias is industry-funded.”

In 2009, researchers published a systematic review of several hundred influenza vaccine trials. Noting “growing doubts about the validity of the scientific evidence underpinning [influenza vaccine] policy recommendations,” the authors showed that the vaccine-favorable studies were “of significantly lower methodological quality”; however, even these poor-quality studies—when funded by the pharmaceutical industry—got far more attention than equivalent studies not funded by industry. The authors commented:

[Studies] sponsored by industry had greater visibility as they were more likely to be published by high impact factor journals and were likely to be given higher prominence by the international scientific and lay media, despite their apparent equivalent methodological quality and size compared with studies with other funders.

In their discussion, the authors also described how the industry’s vast resources enable lavish and strategic dissemination of favorable results. For example, companies often distribute “expensively bound” abstracts and reprints (translated into various languages) to “decision makers, their advisors, and local researchers,” while also systematically plugging their studies at symposia and conferences.

The World Health Organization’s standards describe reporting of clinical trial results as a “scientific, ethical, and moral responsibility.” However, it appears that as many as half of all clinical trial results go unreported—particularly when their results are negative. A European official involved in drug assessment has described the problem as “widespread,” citing as an example GSK’s suppression of results from four clinical trials for an anti-anxiety drug when those results showed a possible increased risk of suicide in children and adolescents. Experts warn that “unreported studies leave an incomplete and potentially misleading picture of the risks and benefits of treatments.”

Many vaccine studies flagrantly illustrate biases and selective reporting that produce skewed write-ups that are more marketing than science.

Debased and biased results

The “significant association between funding sources and pro-industry conclusions” can play out in many different ways, notably through methodological bias and debasement of study designs and analytic strategies. Bias may be present in the form of inadequate sample sizes, short follow-up periods, inappropriate placebos or comparisons, use of improper surrogate endpoints, unsuitable statistical analyses or “misleading presentation of data.”

Occasionally, high-level journal insiders blow the whistle on the corruption of published science. In a widely circulated quote, Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of NEJM, acknowledged that “It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines.” Dr. Angell added that she “[took] no pleasure in this conclusion, which [she] reached slowly and reluctantly” over two decades at the prestigious journal.

Many vaccine studies flagrantly illustrate biases and selective reporting that produce skewed write-ups that are more marketing than science. In formulaic articles that medical journals are only too happy to publish, the conclusion is almost always the same, no matter the vaccine: “We did not identify any new or unexpected safety concerns.” As an example of the use of inappropriate statistical techniques to exaggerate vaccine benefits, an influenza vaccine study reported a “69% efficacy rate” even though the vaccine failed “nearly all who [took] it.” As explained by Dr. David Brownstein, the study’s authors used a technique called relative risk analysis to derive their 69% statistic because it can make “a poorly performing drug or therapy look better than it actually is.” However, the absolute risk difference between the vaccine and the placebo group was 2.27%, meaning that the vaccine “was nearly 98% ineffective in preventing the flu.”

… the reviewers had done an incomplete job and had ignored important evidence of bias.

Trusted evidence?

In 2018, the Cochrane Collaboration—which bills its systematic reviews as the international gold standard for high-quality, “trusted” evidence—furnished conclusions about the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine that clearly signaled industry bias. In May of that year, Cochrane’s highly favorable review improbably declared the vaccine to have no increased risk of serious adverse effects and judged deaths observed in HPV studies “not to be related to the vaccine.” Cochrane claims to be free of conflicts of interest, but its roster of funders includes national governmental bodies and international organizations pushing for HPV vaccine mandates as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—both of which are staunch funders and supporters of HPV vaccination. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s president is a former top CDC official who served as acting CDC director during the H1N1 “false pandemic” in 2009 that ensured millions in windfall profits for vaccine manufacturers.

Two months after publication of Cochrane’s HPV review, researchers affiliated with the Nordic Cochrane Centre (one of Cochrane’s member centers) published an exhaustive critique, declaring that the reviewers had done an incomplete job and had “ignored important evidence of bias.” The critics itemized numerous methodological and ethical missteps on the part of the Cochrane reviewers, including failure to count nearly half of the eligible HPV vaccine trials, incomplete assessment of serious and systemic adverse events and failure to note that many of the reviewed studies were industry-funded. They also upbraided the Cochrane reviewers for not paying attention to key design flaws in the original clinical trials, including the failure to use true placebos and the use of surrogate outcomes for cervical cancer.

In response to the criticisms, the editor-in-chief of the Cochrane Library initially stated that a team of editors would investigate the claims “as a matter of urgency.” Instead, however, Cochrane’s Governing Board quickly expelled one of the critique’s authors, Danish physician-researcher Peter Gøtzsche, who helped found Cochrane and was the head of the Nordic Cochrane Centre. Gøtzsche has been a vocal critic of Cochrane’s “increasingly commercial business model,” which he suggests is resulting in “stronger and stronger resistance to say anything that could bother pharmaceutical industry interests.” Adding insult to injury, Gøtzsche’s direct employer, the Rigshospitalet hospital in Denmark, then fired Gøtzsche. In response, Dr. Gøtzsche stated, “Firing me sends the unfortunate signal that if your research results are inconvenient and cause public turmoil, or threaten the pharmaceutical industry’s earnings, …you will be sacked.” In March 2019, Gøtzsche launched an independent Institute for Scientific Freedom.

In 2019, the editor-in-chief and research editor of BMJ Evidence Based Medicine—the journal that published the critique of Cochrane’s biased review—jointly defended the critique as having “provoke[d] healthy debate and pose[d] important questions,” affirming the value of publishing articles that “hold organisations to account.” They added that “Academic freedom means communicating ideas, facts and criticism without being censored, targeted or reprimanded” and urged publishers not to “shrink from offering criticisms that may be considered inconvenient.”

In recent years, a number of journals have invented bogus excuses to withdraw or retract articles critical of risky vaccine ingredients, even when written by top international scientists.

The censorship tsunami

Another favored tactic is to keep vaccine-critical studies out of medical journals altogether, either by refusing to publish them (even if peer reviewers recommend their publication) or by concocting excuses to pull articles after publication. In recent years, a number of journals have invented bogus excuses to withdraw or retract articles critical of risky vaccine ingredients, even when written by top international scientists. To cite just three examples:

  • The journal Vaccine withdrew a study that questioned the safety of the aluminum adjuvantused in Gardasil.
  • The journal Science and Engineering Ethics retracted an article that made a case for greater transparency regarding the link between mercury and autism.
  • Pharmacological Research withdrew a published veterinary article that implicated aluminum-containing vaccines in a mystery illness decimating sheep, citing “concerns” from an anonymous reader.

Elsevier, which publishes two of these journals, has a track record of setting up fake journals to market Merck’s drugs, and Springer, which publishes the third journal as well as influential publications like Nature and Scientific American, has been only too willing to accommodate censorship requests. However, even these forms of censorship may soon seem quaint in comparison to the censorship of vaccine-critical information now being implemented across social media and other platforms. This concerted campaign to prevent dissemination of vaccine content that does not toe the party line will make it harder than ever for American families to do their due diligence with regard to vaccine risks and benefits.


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You Can Help Stop The 5G Infrastructure

We plan to investigate the telecom industry, it’s ties to politics, and expose its efforts to push 5G while ignoring the dangers and without proper safety testing, but we can't do it without your support.

We've launched a funding campaign to fuel our efforts on this matter as we are confident we can make a difference and have a strong plan to get it done.

Check out our plan and join our campaign here.

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