This documentary concerns Morocco’s growing solar industry. This country, which experiences 3,000 hours of sunlight a year, is home to the largest solar farm in the world.
Near Zarat, the farm employs 7,500 giant mirrors to concentrate solar energy. This energy, which is stored as hot water and steam, produces sufficient electrical power to supply 2 million homes.
Historically Morocco, which has no fossil fuel deposits, has been forced to import 90% of its energy. Thanks to its rapid development of solar and wind power, this percentage has dropped to 60%. The government has strongly supported the transition to renewables with the help of the German International Development Bank (GIZ).
The filmmakers follow a local solar engineer as he installs solar panels and batteries on scattered households in the Atlas mountains. Few of these families have access to the electrical grid, in part due to their isolation and in part due to the high cost of grid energy. They barter their saffron crop (their only cash crop) for a solar panel and battery costing 400 euros. A solar system large enough to run the irrigation pump for a large date farm costs about 3,000 euros.
With the support of the Moroccan government, the GIZ has launched a green mosque program that installs free solar panels on mosques to increase environmental awareness and uptake of solar energy among farmers and households. This project has the indirect benefit of providing mosque lighting at night for women to attend literacy programs and prayers during Ramadan.
This is the first of two posts concerning the 1936 Spanish Revolution – which the US and its western allies refer to as the Spanish Civil War. This BBC documentary offers a more or less conventional pro-capitalist interpretation of events. Tomorrow I will post an alternative view by Spanish anarchists who actively participated in the revolution.
Ironically, although Spain was the birthplace of guerilla warfare,* Stalin (the only foreign leader willing to sell them arms) forced the Spanish Republic to engage in a conventional war against overwhelmingly superior forces.
Owing to the massive grassroots mobilization behind the Republic, guerilla warfare would have had a far greater chance of success (as it ultimately did in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan).
When Franco ultimately crushed Spain’s first republic in 1939, it would result in a brutal fascist dictatorship lasting 36 years.
Part 1 describes
the non-violent fall of the Spanish monarchy in 1931, resulting in the establishment of Spain’s second Republic
land reform of a semi-feudal system in which landless peasants lived in virtual slavery
the creation of 10,000 non-church schools in a country with 50% illiteracy
declaration of emancipation of women and home rule for Catalonia and the Basque region
Part 2 describes
the 1934 takeover of the Republic’s governing coalition by fascists, who repealed most land and other reforms
the success of socialists, communists and anarchists in winning back the government in 1936 as the United Front
the move by 60,000 landless peasants to retake 3,000 farms they lost between 1934-36
the coup launched by Franco and thousands of Arab troops and Spanish legionaries from Spanish Morocco
how the grassroots resistance led by Spain’s one million anarchists became a revolution, in which they formed revolutionary committees to organize and arm the resistance and seized factories, which they turned into workers cooperatives, and to redistribute food and other necessities which they distribute to the poor.
how effective civilian resistance held back Franco’s forces, confining them to regions to the north and west of Madrid for nearly three years.
Part 3 describes
how Mussolini and Hitler supported Franco with arms, funding and troops, while western Europe and the US signed a pact of “non-intervention” – allowing Roosevelt to sell Texas oil to Franco but prohibiting any western country to supply fuel or arms to the Republic.
how only the Soviets came to the Republic’s assistance by selling them weapons (for Spanish gold), providing air cover and coordinating the International Brigades – 40,000 international volunteers from more than a dozen countries (including most of Europe, Australia and the US).
Part 4 examines Franco’s background and that of the right wing groups that supported his coup.
Part 5 examines life inside the revolution and how Stalin’s agents and supporters in the Republican government systematically crushed it – by murdering anarchist leaders and launching a formal battle (lasting five days and leaving 500 dead) against anarchist forces in Barcelona.
Part 6 covers Franco’s final defeat of Republican forces after Stalin withdrew his support for the Republic (to pacify Hitler). It also examines the irony of Stalin and the communists forcing the Republic to wage a conventional war they couldn’t possibly win – in the country that invented guerilla warfare.
*The term was first used in 1808, when Spanish guerillas repelled Napoleon’s invasion of Spain. It refers to the use of a small, mobile force competing against a larger, more unwieldy one.
Did your power prices go up again this month? Mine have been going up two or three times a year for as long as I can remember.
According to the Australian Green Left Weekly, there is absolutely no reason Australia can’t have 100% renewable energy in less than a decade at sharply reduced prices.
The article refers to a May comment by the vice-president of Sempra Energy, one of the largest utility firms in the US – that there was no longer any technical obstacle to powering California with 100% renewables. “We now have the ability to control the grid twenty times faster than you can blink your eye. The technology has been resolved. How fast do you want to get to 100%? That can be done today.”
The author Renfrey Clarke goes on to point out that most of Australia’s fossil-fueled generating infrastructure is past its design life. Prone to costly breakdowns, it’s extremely expensive to maintain and should be replaced.
According to a recent Australian National University study, it’s far cheaper to replace it with renewables.
Positing the future cost of solar photovoltaic and wind energy at $50 per megawatt-hour (MWh), the team concluded that the “levelised cost of energy” (LCOE) over the lifetime of a balanced, 100% renewable energy system (including storage) would be around $75/MWh. For comparison, the LCOE of electricity from new supercritical black coal plants was estimated last year at $80/MWh.
For energy storage, the ANU study proposes the well-tested technology of “pumped hydro”. This is impressively cheap and its virtues are listed as including excellent inertial energy, spinning reserve, rapid start, black start capability, voltage regulation and frequency control. Australia has numerous good sites for off-river and seawater pumped hydro.
Still greater system security is provided by a combination of pumped hydro with battery storage. Using modern software, utility-scale batteries can be switched into the grid in milliseconds. A recent Bloomberg report states that lithium-ion batteries are expected to fall in price by more than 70% by 2030.
Essential history I should have learned in high school but didn’t. I must have been absent that day. This documentary gives me a new understanding of how European colonial powers totally wrecked the Arab world – a process that continues to the current day.
World War I through Arab Eyes
Al Jazeera (2014)
This is a three part documentary in which Tunisian journalist Malke Triki interviews European, Turkish and Arab journalists and surviving families about the role of Arab forces – on both sides – in World War I.
Part 1 concerns the forcible conscription of Muslim troops by both the Ottoman Empire and the Allies. Two-thirds of the soldiers who defeated England, Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli weren’t Turkish, but Syrian, Lebanese, Jordanian, Iraqi and Palestinian. As these countries were still part of the Ottoman Empire, they were subject to a mandatory draft.
I was unaware that England and France, who had occupied large swathes of North Africa since the end of the 19th century, also forcibly conscripted Muslim troops. England forced more than 1.2 million Egyptians to fight for the Allied cause, while France forcibly drafted 100,000 Algerians, 80,000 Tunisians and 45,000 Moroccans.
The French were widely accused of using these colonial forces as cannon fodder to protect French soldiers.
Many colonial troops rebelled against being compelled to kill fellow Muslims. This, as well as their abominable treatment by Europeans, was the spark that inflamed the North African independence movements that arose after World War I.
Part 2 tells the story of the decline of the Ottoman Empire during the 19th century and the Ottoman-German relationship which led to their Treaty of Alliance in August 1914.
In 1830 the Ottoman Empire stretched from Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) to the Red Sea and encompassed most of North Africa and the Balkans. It was under continual attack by European colonial powers. In the late 1800s, the British military seized Egypt and the French military Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. In 1912, Italy seized Libya. In the 1912-13 Balkan Wars, the Empire lost its European territories.
This episode also describes the Ottoman leadership’s brutal suppression of Arab nationalism in the Middle East, particularly in Syria/Lebanon. In 1915, one third of the Lebanese population died of starvation and another third were permanently displaced when their villages were decimated.
It also provides important background on the Armenian genocide carried out by the Ottoman leadership in 1915-17.
Part 3 covers the secret Sykes-Picot agreement between Britain and France and the way the two imperial powers carved up the former Ottoman Empire between them, regardless of promises made to nationalist movements across the Arab world.
Despite the Egyptian Revolution and the Iraq Uprising, Arab subservience to Ottoman rule was replaced by a series of mandates across the region in which Britain and France seized control of the areas they prized most – to satisfy their own ambitions, interests and ultimately to gain access to region’s valuable oil resources.
World War I gave birth to the Turkish nationalist movement, which led to the founding of the modern Turkish state; and to Zionism, aided greatly by the Balfour Declaration of 1917.
According to UNHCR (the UN High Commission for Human Rights), more than 50 million people have been permanently displaced through wars in the Middle East, political persecution, climate change and grinding poverty. Of these, hundreds of thousands face such life threatening conditions at home that they risk death by crossing the Mediterranean in rusty, leaky, overcrowded boats.
Refugees typically take one of four routes in their desperation to reach Europe: illegal entry into one of the two Spanish enclaves in Morocco, a short choppy boat trip from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos or across the Avros River into mainland Greece, jumping a wire fence from Greece into Bulgaria or crossing the Mediterranean from Libya to the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Europe or Die is a four part documentary follows some of these migrants on their dangerous voyage and closely examines their treatment by EU countries on their arrival.
This documentary was a real eye opener for me. Given the majority of these refugees are the helpless victims of proxy wars started and funded by the US and wealthy EU countries, their refusal of to adopt consistent and humane immigration policies is clearly a crime against humanity under international law.
Part I: For most sub-Saharan refugees seeking illegal entry to Ceuta and Melilla, the two Spanish enclaves on the Moroccan coast, the best option is to jump three high razor wire topped fences. Under EU law, the first fence demarcates the Spanish border. Refugees who make it past the first fence (it’s really a kind of game) are home free and must be given the option of moving to mainland Spain. They’re also entitled to legal assistance and an interpreter to help them apply for asylum.
The most common is for thousands to storm the fence simultaneously and overwhelming the border guards. Typically two out of 1,000 will get through. It’s illegal, under EU law, for Spanish police to forcibly return them. However “pushbacks,” as they are called are common. As is shooting their hands and feet to make it harder to climb the fence. This is also against the rules.
Part 2: A second common route for migrants is to take the “death boat” from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos or across the Avros River to mainland Greece. Refugees can pay smugglers several thousand dollars to cram them into shabby, overcrowded boats that frequently capsize.
Greece is experiencing a five-fold increase in illegal migration as a direct result of the civil war in Syria. Recently they have experienced a big influx of Iraqi refugees (mainly Yazidis*) with the rise of ISIS. As part of the game, the EU has another law, called the Dublin rule, that political refugees become the responsibility of the country where they are first picked up, irregardless of the country’s ability to provide jobs or social services.
Part 3: A third route is to cross the razor wife fence separating Turkey from Bulgaria, the poorest country in the EU. Bulgaria keeps political refugees in unheated tents without access to clean water. Once they are granted asylum they are forced to leave the camp and end up homeless on the streets.
Part 4: The final, most common method of reaching Europe is to cross from Libya to the Italian Island of Lampedusa. Up until a few months ago, the Italian Navy operated the only search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean. Called Mare Nostrum, it was made up of 900 personnel and 26 naval vessels – at a cost of $9 million euros a month.
In 2013, Mare Nostrum saved 150,000 migrants from boats that had capsized. Owing to the refusal of the EU to support this fantastically expensive program, it had to be cancelled in 2014.
It’s been replaced by Triton, an air surveillance program that requests nearby merchant vessels (if there are any) to rescue migrants in leaky votes.
In 2014, 170,000 migrants made it safely to Italy and 3,000 drowned.
*Yazidis are a Kurdish ethnic group ISIS attempted to exterminate in August 2014.