Clifton Ware, Editor
We’re Robbing the Bank
Ever since we humans began using earth’s resources for sustaining life, we have been withdrawing from The World Nature Bank, figuratively speaking. In ancient times people relied mostly on materials that were renewable, such as trees, rocks, plants and animals for most of life’s needs. Gradually, extraction of metals from the earth made it possible to create better tools, weapons, and body decorations, while fossil carbon provided fuel for heating buildings and making things.
With the Industrial Revolution in full swing—thanks primarily to the extraction and use of coal in the 18th century, followed by the discovery and production of oil in mid 19th century—the seemingly endless supply of carbon-based energy propelled civilization into a frenzy of ongoing development. It’s no happenstance that most statistics of relevantly measurable events and activities began to escalate along with a growth-oriented economic paradigm, resulting in both positive and negative outcomes. Not surprisingly, as the world economy expanded, the human population also increased, virtually in lockstep with economic growth. Material prosperity became the principal motivation for increasing numbers of people living in developed countries, especially during the go-go 20s, between the two World Wars, and accelerating in the postwar period following WWII.
Metaphorically, the Earth as a World Nature Bank (WNB) containing humanity’s primary wealth is in direct opposition to our contemporary economic system’s commitment to ongoing consumption and growth. The World Nature Bank started out whole, full of great natural wealth, but around fifty thousand years ago humankind learned to make increasingly effective use of many natural resources. For the past two thousand or more years human population remained relatively stable—until the mid 19th century, when the discovery and use of plentiful, cheap energy enabled exploitation of resources on a massive scale. Even so, for a few decades the WNB remained relatively full of natural riches.
The problem of course is that, with the minor exception of reforesting in places and attempts to restore land and ocean habitats, the great store of wealth drawn out of the WNB is not being replaced. All easily found fossil carbon sources and most of the minerals, metals, wildlife, water, and other vital resources have been withdrawn from the WNB, so much so that, increasingly, withdrawals must be made from hard-to-penetrate vaults located deep in the bowels of the WNB.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that humanity is creating a natural debt that dwarfs any existing and projected worldwide money-based debts. Rather than conserving some of the natural resources for future generations—and to use in building a bridge to renewable energies—the existing Plan A seems to be “take it while the getting’s good, before anyone else can get it”. Unfortunately, the “anyone else” includes future citizens who will learn to either hate us, or have pity on us for our appalling ignorance, shortsighted vision, and lack of compassion.
In sum, we’re not borrowing from the WNB, with the intention of paying back our withdrawals. Nope, we’re just willfully robbing it. It seems that we’ve become extravagant spenders rather than thrifty savers. Although we’ll never pay back all of our debts to the WNB, we might at least seek ways to conserve what wealth remains in its vaults. Maybe we need a Plan B, one that is based on such values as thrift, conservation, resilience and sustainability, serves the Common Good, and demonstrates moral concern for the needs and rights of future world citizens.
Market Watch: U.S. Risks Fiscal Crisis From Rising Debt: CBO. In its new long-term budget outlook, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said federal debt held by the public is now 74% of the economy and will rise to 106% of gross domestic product by 2039 if current laws remain unchanged. Read the 2014 long-term budget outlook.
Market Watch: We’re In The Third Biggest Stock Bubble In U.S. History. U.S. stocks are now about 80% overvalued on certain key long-term measures, according to research by financial consultant Andrew Smithers, the chairman of Smithers & Co. and one of the few to warn about the bubble of the late 1990s at the time.
Peak Prosperity: Compounding Is The Problem: Crash Course Chapter 4. Chapter 4 of the Crash Course is now publicly available. It includes Chris’ famous “magic eye dropper” example of how the compounding nature of exponential systems speeds up over time, often in ways very non-intuitive to the human mind.
Pacific Standard: The World Is Getting Less Peaceful Every Year. And it’s costing the global economy about $1,350 per person. The GPI report includes a section on trends in peacefulness from 2008 to 2014, which demonstrates that what the IEP calls “internal peacefulness” is getting worse.
Environmental Leader: ‘Sharing Economy’ Will Save Our Economy and the Environment. The Sharing Economy blends the world of profitability and sustainability. Fixed costs are low, marginal costs are near zero, the need for additional capital-intensive infrastructure is diminished, and more people are sharing fewer resources.
CLIMATE, ENERGY, AND ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS-VIEWS
Climate Progress: Parents Blast Climate Denial In Schools: ‘You Have To Teach Real Science’. New national standards for teaching science in public schools have sparked backlash in several states, particularly from officials who want teachers to teach climate change as a scientific debate, rather than accepted science.
Climate Progress: No False Choices: To Preserve A Livable Climate, We Need To Slash Both CO2 And Methane ASAP. The bad news is that humanity has dawdled for so long that our only realistic chance to avoid multiple, irreversible, catastrophic climate impacts is to slash both carbon dioxide and the “super pollutants” like methane sharply starting as soon as possible.
Climate Progress: Group Representing Half A Billion Christians Says It Will No Longer Support Fossil Fuels. A large umbrella group of churches representing more than half a billion Christians worldwide announced Thursday that it would pull all of its investments in fossil fuels, saying it had determined the investments were no longer ethical.
Minn Post: Earth Journal: Climate Change Is Visiting Fire, Floods And Other Harm On U.S. Military Bases. A Government Accountability Office report provides an interesting blend of security-minded imprecision about exactly where among the Pentagon’s 7,500 installations certain climate impacts are showing up, coupled with photos and videos to document the damage.
ENSIA: The End of Sustainability. The time has come for us to collectively reexamine — and ultimately move past — the concept of sustainability. Read more >
Resilience.org: Orwellian Newspeak And The Oil Industry’s Fake Abundance Story (Kurt Cobb, Resource Insights). If you want to corrupt a people, corrupt the language. Once it becomes impossible to say the truth with the language we have, it will ultimately be impossible for us to adapt and survive. See also ASPO-USA: Oil Abundance? Not So Fast – Drilling Holes In The Energy Boom Story and Peak Oil Review – July 14.
Associated Press-MPR: ND Pipeline Leaks About 1M Gallons Of Saltwater. North Dakota produced 25.5 million barrels of brine in 2012, the latest figures available. A barrel is 42 gallons. There were 141 pipeline leaks reported in North Dakota in 2012, 99 of which spilled about 8,000 barrels of saltwater. About 6,150 barrels of the spilled saltwater was recovered, state regulators said.
Sierra Club-Green Life: How Much Paper Does One Tree Produce? What is the environmental impact of office paper use? Mr. Green finds out!
Christian Science Monitor: Google Searches For Natural Gas Leaks, Finds A Lot Of Them. Google is teaming up with an environmental group map methane leaks from natural gas pipelines in US cities. Methane contributes to global warming, and Google hopes its new maps will encourage utilities to patch and replace old pipelines
LOCAL, STATE, AND REGIONAL NEWS-VIEWS
Minn Post: Will Copper/Nickel Mining Be Minnesota’s Bakken Fields? Not So Fast. If industry-favored projections are correct, copper and nickel mining would, right away, provide a modest boost for Minnesota’s economy, while potentially leading to bigger gains in later years. But those estimates, rosy as they might be, produce not even one-tenth the jobs Bakken has created in North Dakota.
Twin Cities Daily Planet: Research Funding Boost To Help New University Bee Lab Facility In Battle Against Waning Honeybee Population. In addition to the state funding, Bee Lab Director Marla Spivak said an $864,000 Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund grant will go toward hiring a new pollinator habitat ecology professor and providing new sources of nectar and pollen for Minnesota’s bees.
MPR: Quest To Save Groundwater Aims At Love For Lush, Green Lawns. Fresh doubts about groundwater supplies are testing long-held assumptions that water is both cheap and plentiful. New technology, more aggressive pricing structures and shifting attitudes are beginning to change how some Minnesotans view and care for their lawns.
Minn Post: Earth Journal: Map Shows Areas Most At Risk As Rail Shipments Of Oil Continue To Rise. The route through the TC area passes through NE Minneapolis, including St. Anthony. For interactive US map, see Oil Train Blast Zone at : http://explosive-crude-by-rail.org/
SUSTAINABLE IDEAS AND PRACTICES
Transition US: Taking Resilience To The Streets. This fall, neighbors across the U.S. will be meeting in each other’s homes to support each other in reducing their reliance on fossil fuels, building social cohesion, and strengthening their community’s resilience.
Modern Farmer: When the Well Runs Dry, Try Dry Farming. Fifteen miles north of Santa Cruz and 2 miles east of the Pacific’s crashing waves, Jim Curry is tending to his tomatoes. The powdery soil is fertile, but looks as dry as a sand dune. Curry has been growing tomatoes here since 1982 — entirely without irrigation.
Minnesota 2020: Blog: A Case for Urban Ecosystems: What is a Biophilic City? A Biophilic city is a place where plants, animals, and people can thrive together in a dense, nature-rich, urban metropolis. The concept harmonizes biodiversity with daily city life.
CFS RECENT AND UPCOMING EVENTS
CFS JULY 12th FORUM-REPORT: PROMOTING HEALTHY LOCAL FOOD SOURCES. Sat., July 12, 3-5 p.m., SAV Council Chambers. Speaker—Amy Fields, Manager of Eastside Food Co-op, gave a very informative presentation about our local food co-op and its expansion plans, also about the local food movement in the T.C. area and nationally.
CFS—SAV VILLAGEFEST ACTIVITIES: Parade–Fri., Aug. 1, 7 p.m., SAV, coordinated by CFS Bike-Walk SAV. Exhibits—Sat., Aug. 2, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., CFS-related groups participate. More info: http://www.stanthonyvillagefest.org/
CFS AUGUST FORUM: SUSTAINABILTY BOOK CLUB–Decline and Fall: The End of Empire (John Michael Greer), and The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivor’s Toolkit (Dmitry Orlov), Sat. Aug. 23, 3-5 p.m., Place TBD.
NOTABLE UPCOMING LOCAL EVENTS
2014 Eat Local Farm Tour. Sat., July 19 (all day, variable times). Visit farms in TC area, Stillwater, Northfield, and St. Peter. Info: https://www.facebook.com/EatLocalFarmTour.coop
Minnesota Citizen’s Hearing On The Clean Power Plan. Tues., July 22, 10 a.m.-noon, Rm. 400, North State Office Bldg., 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
Focus On The Economy: An Afternoon With Charles Eisenstein. Fri., July 25, 1:30-4:00 P.m., Wellstone Center, Room 272, 179 Robie St. E., St. Paul, MN 55107 View Map
Citizens for a Safe Railroad and Climate. Wed.,July 30, 2014, 12:00 p.m., St. Anthony Bridge, 201 St. Anthony Pkwy, Mpls. Info (Matthew0tt@yahoo.com/) Click here to view event details
> REDUCE > REUSE > RECYCLE!
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Thanks! Clif Ware
CFS News-Views Digest is published weekly (with some exceptions)