What’s Really Scary — Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher
Boooooo! Halloween 2014 is nigh, along with the typical appearances of ghosts, witches, vampires, zombies, and all kinds of nefarious characters—plus benign non-scary impersonations of angels, animals, super heroes and celebrities. For some deep-seated emotional need, we welcome the adrenaline highs associated with being scared out of our wits when experiencing immediate life-threatening danger.
I suspect that most readers of this e-newsletter lead relatively safe and sane lives, with little fear of encountering severe danger. On the other hand, many world citizens live in harm’s way on a regularly basis, including human-inflicted violence.
But there are some long-term potential dangers that we tend to ignore, deny, or bury in our subconscious minds. After all, there are personal obligations to fulfill—earning a living, caring for family members, planning for a financially secure future, and contributing to society in various ways.
If we are sincerely concerned about the kind of future our descendants will inherit, then our attention and efforts should be focused on the really scary dangers, including: the Ebola crisis; the increasing impacts wrought by climate change; the rising terrorism and social discontent; the decline of essential natural resources; the growing gap between the rich, the middle classes, and the poor; the waning of democracy; and the inevitable future dangers caused by a bulging worldwide population. Obviously, in order to lessen or blunt the impact of potential calamities, we need to take positive, constructive, action.
So what can we do? Here are five suggestions:
1) Support organizations and programs that address a wide range of life affirming causes, with your finances and/or through volunteer service.
2) Cultivate a “big-picture” awareness and knowledge of sustainability issues, by attending informative events, seeking information in all reputable media (books, articles, etc.), and participating in study/discussion groups (like the Sustainability Education Forum).
3) Respond to notices from prominent organizations that identify harmful practices by corporations and organizations, and a request to send personal or form letters to designated politicians, corporations, or groups.
4) Adopt a green, healthy lifestyle based on consuming less stuff, and more attuned to nature.
5) Join with others in local citizen groups (like Citizens For Sustainability) to affect positive changes on a community level.
In St. Anthony Village we are fortunate to have a core of citizens dedicated to creating greater resilience, sustainability, and livability for our community. But we can certainly use more citizens to join with us in developing and implementing specific progressive initiatives.
In closing, may we learn to focus on real dangers, not imagined fears. With courageous determination and perseverance, we can take positive steps in confronting whatever lies ahead. Bring on the super heroes and heroines!
(Note: For a complementary view of fear, see The Nature Of Fear, a NY Times article by Akeiki Busch in the Oct. 27 Star Tribune.)
ENVIRONMENT (Natural Resources-Wildlife-Climate)
> Institute for Policy Studies: COMBAT VS. CLIMATE: The Military And Climate Security Budgets. A report argues that a change from 1% to 4% of security spending is not commensurate with the role U.S. military strategy now assigns to climate change: as a major threat to U.S. security. Nor is it remotely sufficient to bring greenhouse gas emissions under control. Download the full report.
> ENSIA: Can We Have Our Cities And Biodiversity, Too? Smart development could mean big benefits for biodiversity and urban areas alike. View a 3-minute video.
> Star Tribune: New Combination Herbicide For Crops Gains Federal Approval. Environmental groups condemned the decision, and said that EPA ignored serious health risks, especially to children, that are associated with 2,4-D. Critics said the chemical has been linked to reproductive problems, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Parkinson’s disease.
> Huffington Post: ‘Anthropocene’ Term Gains Traction As Human Impacts On Planet (Seth Borenstein). People are changing Earth so much, warming and polluting it, that many scientists are turning to a new way to describe the time we live in. They’re calling it the Anthropocene — the age of humans.
> Take Part: 34 Surprising Facts You Need To Know About California’s Drought. Infographic: Why the Golden State’s long dry spell—and its changing climate—will have implications far beyond the West Coast.
ENERGY (Fossil Carbon-Renewables)
> Post Carbon Institute: Drilling Deeper. This report presents a reality check on U.S. government forecasts for a lasting tight oil and shale gas boom.
> Post Carbon Institute: The Revolution That Wasn’t: Why The Fracking Phenomenon Will Leave Us High And Dry. A new, landmark report shows that hopes of a long-term golden era in American oil & gas production are unfounded.
> Common Dreams: Big Oil Spending Millions To Kill Local Anti-Fracking Measure. Fossil fuel energy companies have spent over $7.6 million to defeat a measure that would ban fracking in California’s Santa Barbara County.
> Resilience: Resilient And Sustainable Infrastructure For Urban Energy Systems. Extreme weather from climate change and growing urbanization are making cities more vulnerable to loss of electric power and damage to energy infrastructure. Policy makers and users of critical infrastructure services are searching for solutions that increase the resiliency of energy systems but are closely tied to other goals, such as sustainability and affordability.
> MinnPost: America’s Energy Future Is Starting To Look Like Our Energy Past. Three interesting takes on America’s complicated energy puzzle showed up in national papers in the last couple of days, revealing renewed interest in exploring geothermal and nuclear power.
> MinnPost: How Minnesota’s Highways Are Poised To Become Renewable Energy Generators. A pilot project proposes up to five 1-megawatt solar panel arrays for public right-of-ways around the state. If the project proceeds as planned, it would exceed the total capacity of a solar installation at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport expected to go online next fall and touted this month as the largest in the state.
> Our Finite World: Eight Pieces Of Our Oil Price Predicament (Gail Tverberg). One big problem is that our networked economy is quite inflexible. Even a small amount of shrinkage looks like a major recession. If there is significant shrinkage, there is danger of collapse. We haven’t set up a new type of economy that uses less oil.
> Peak Prosperity: Energy Economics – Crash Course (Chapter 19). In order for the economy to grow, it must receive an ever-increasing input supply of affordable energy and resources from the natural world. What I’m about to show you is a preponderance of data that indicates those inputs will just not be there in the volumes needed to supply the growth that the world economy is counting on.
> The Daly News: Paul Krugman On Limits To Growth: Beware The Bathwater (Brian Czech). Adam Smith was among the great, classical economists who readily recognized limits to growth, all the way until at least John Stuart Mill. After that and throughout the 20th century, things got murky for economists as they turned increasingly to microeconomics, losing the forest for the trees.
> Peak Prosperity: How The Federal Reserve Is Purposely Attacking Savers (Chris Martenson). A moral obligation is something that almost never enters into the decision matrix of our society’s richest, or the banking industry. For them, the number one rule is that whatever is expedient and makes the most money is the right thing to do. For the bottom 99%, it’s like playing with a stricter set of rules.
> Boillier.Org: A Paradox To Savor: A High-Quality, Free Economics Textbook (David Boillier). Unlike conventional economics textbooks, which set forth axiomatic principles that supposedly govern an entire field of economic life, the [free] Core-Econ textbook is a big fan of empirical realities, behavioral evidence and economic history. Watch this video or go to the Core-Econ webpage.
> Spiegel Online International: The Zombie System: How Capitalism Has Gone Off The Rails. Today’s issue is “secular stagnation,” as former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers puts it. The American economy isn’t growing even half as quickly as did in the 1990s. Japan has become the sick man of Asia. And Europe is sinking into a recession that has begun to slow down the German export machine and threaten prosperity.
> Post Growth: The Not-For-Profit World Beyond Capitalism. Research increasingly shows that, under the right conditions, human nature has a tendency towards co-operation (pdf). We’re witnessing the rise of a workforce increasingly motivated by purpose, and we’re realizing the potential of an existing business structure called not-for-profit (NFP) enterprise, that encourages the best aspects of human nature.
> Huffington Post: Getting A Grip On Ebola (Robert Reich). The real crisis is the hysteria over Ebola that’s being fed by media outlets seeking sensationalism and politicians posturing for the midterm elections.
> Resilience: Living And Breathing In A ‘Black Swan’ World (David Orr). Sustainability implies a stable state that can be achieved once and for all. Resilience, on the other hand, is the capacity to make ongoing adjustments to changing political, economic, and ecological conditions. Its hallmarks are redundancy, adaptation, and flexibility, as well as the foresight and good judgment to avoid the brawl in the first place.
> Resilience: The Infinite Toddler Regress–The Krugman Function Part 3 (Erik Lindberg). Except for the fact that the future of life on Earth may hang in the balance, we should have sympathy for Krugman’s position. It is not easy to be a Liberal Functionary in this day and age—when ecosystems are crashing all around us, the polar ice caps are melting, and world conventional oil has peaked.
> The Archdruid Report: A Pink Slip For The Progress Fairy (J.M. Greer) I’m aware that true believers in progress insist that this [envisioned collapse] can’t happen to us, but a growing number of people have noticed that the Progress Fairy got her pink slip some time ago, and ordinary history has taken her place as the arbiter of human affairs. That being the case, getting used to what ordinary history brings may be a highly useful habit to cultivate just now.
> Star Tribune: It’s My Belief And I’m Sticking To It (Timothy Taylor). Several studies confirm that result of receiving balanced pro-and-con information was not greater intellectual humility, but rather a greater polarization of beliefs. Student subjects on both sides — who had received the same packet of balanced information! — all tended to believe that the information confirmed their previous position.
> The Atlantic: There’s More To Life Than Being Happy. In a new study, which will be published this year in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Positive Psychology, the authors write: “Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desire are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided.”
> Pew Research: From ISIS To Unemployment: What Do Americans Know? Older adults generally demonstrate higher levels of news knowledge than younger Americans, and there are age divides across several of the questions asked on the survey. Differences also show up according to educational background and partisan affiliations.
> Resilience: Could Do Better: Why We Must Set Young Minds Free (Vanessa Spedding). It is time all young people knew this: the work of our time is the work of reconnection, regeneration, restoration and reconciliation. Their talents and open minds, their unselfconscious creativity and determination are all desperately required.
EQUITY (Equality-Social Concerns)
> Common Dreams: Economics As If Future Generations Mattered. Growing numbers of people are waking up to the reemerging Commons ethic, which holds that human systems must be aligned to match ecological ones. People believe that future generations have the inalienable right to a healthy planet, and many are now seeking ways to withdraw their consent to the politics and policies that lead to a toxic future.
> City of the Future: On Public Health And Energy (Lakis Polycarpou). If the question is how to maintain public health in a world of declining energy resources, it’s worth looking at countries with relatively low per capita energy consumption and long life expectancy. Amazingly, in 2011, Costa Rica and Cuba had life expectancies of 79 years — the equivalent of the United States–while consuming only 14 percent of the per capita energy.
> CNN: Americans Taking Fewest Vacation Days In Four Decades.” Americans are work martyrs,” says the U.S. Travel Association. They leave more and more paid time off unused each year, forfeiting earned benefits and, in essence, working for free.” According to the study, in 2013 U.S. employees took an average of 16 days of vacation, compared with an average of 20.3 days in 2000.
> Streetsblog: By A Wide Margin, Americans Favor Transit Expansion Over New Roads. A new poll [PDF] from ABC News and the Washington Post shows that attitudes varied by political leaning, place of residence, and other demographic factors.
> Common Dreams: Bill Moyers: Pro-Democracy Movement Must Challenge Corporate Control. Ahead of final sign-off, veteran journalist tells viewers that reaching out to their fellow citizens and neighbors is the essential task in creating the transformation so desperately needed. “Neither [political party] will change voluntarily because the people in charge have too great a stake in the status quo.”
> Common Dreams: ‘A Generation Cast Aside’: Child Poverty On Rise In World’s Richest Countries. Children remain “the most enduring victims” of the recession in the world’s wealthiest nations, where 2.6 million children have fallen below the poverty line since 2008, a new report from UNICEF reveals. In 2012, 24.2 million children were living in poverty in the U.S.
> ENSIA: Sustainia Wants Us To Start Acting Today, Not Tomorrow. The nonprofit highlights innovative and readily available sustainability solutions happening right now around the world.
> FarmProgress: Prairie Conservation Strips Help Stop Nutrient Runoff From Farms. The upshot is, without affecting yield on the remaining 90% of a field, prairie strips improve the condition of waterways, cut back soil and nutrient loss, and revitalize Iowa’s natural heritage by providing habitat for native species–including natural predators of crop pests.
> Wall Street Journal Online: Warren Buffett Puts Wind In Berkshire’s Sails. Since 2004, Berkshire has invested $5.8 billion into wind projects in Iowa. The Iowa utility, still called MidAmerican under the Berkshire Hathaway Energy banner, has built more than 3,300 megawatts, or 64% of Iowa’s wind-generation capacity, compared with about 100 megawatts it had built there by 2000.
> Growing Cities: A Film About Urban Farming in America. In their search for answers, filmmakers Dan Susman and Andrew Monbouquette take a road trip and meet the men and women who are challenging the way this country grows and distributes its food, one vacant city lot, rooftop garden, and backyard chicken coop at a time. Watch the trailer>
> NPR: Millennials: We Help The Earth But Don’t Call Us Environmentalists. This is the difference when it comes to millennials, 18-33 year-olds. Young Americans may be turning away from the word “environmentalist.” Previous polls have found people under 30 were more likely than older Americans to favor developing alternative energy sources, and also more likely to believe that humans are responsible for climate change.
> Open Democracy: Oxford Real Farming Conference: Power, Lies, And The Need For Agrarian Resistance (Colin Tudge). The world’s global strategy of food and farming is founded on three great untruths – lies, in effect. Overall, the world needs a Renaissance – to build a different and better world in situ. Agrarian Renaissance is key because agriculture sits right at the heart of all human affairs and if we get it right, then everything else becomes possible.
> Resilience: The Archaic Arts And Skills (Brian Miller). We on a small farm are learning the archaic arts—harvesting manure to build soil fertility, constructing secure fences that do indeed make good neighbors, planting vegetables that, when they mature, will feed us for a month, creating a plate of shortbread cookies that nourishes the soul—and all connect us with long past practitioners of these arts in ways that Facebook and Walmart never can and never will.
EDUCATION (Local Events- Information)
> SUSTAINABILITY EDUCATION FORUM (New Format): HUMANS AND THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT. Sat., Nov. 15th, 3-5 p.m., St. Anthony Village Library, 2941 Pentagon Drive in St. Anthony Shopping Center. Presentations and discussions include a book, For Love of Lakes by Dave Demsey, presented by Isabelle Peterson; “The Ebola Crisis”, material presented by Peter Daughty; plus discussion of articles by various writers, and presented by participants. Limited seating—20 people. RSVP (email@example.com)
> THIRD ANNUAL EVENT: SUSTAINABILITY FAIR, Thurs., Nov. 20th, 5:30-8:00 p.m., Silverwood Park Visitors Center, St. Anthony Village (Map). Co-sponsored by the cities of St. Anthony Village, Lauderdale, and Falcon Heights, in collaboration with Three Rivers Park District and U of MN sustainability faculty and students. Poster exhibits presented by 43 students and other exhibits presented by local sustainability groups, including CFS. Free and open to the public.
> UM Institute on the Environment: Frontiers in the Environment: Big Questions, Wednesdays, 12:00-1:00 p.m., IonE Seminar Room R380, Learning & Environmental Sciences Bldg., St. Paul. Free. Watch online
- Nov. 5 — How Can We Make the Most of Agriculture’s 21st Century Transformation?
- Nov.12 — How Can We Help Children Connect to the Natural World?
- Nov.19 — Environmentalists and Corporations Make Strange Bedfellows . . . Or Do They?
> CERTs: Midwest Gateway To Solar Conference. Tues., Nov. 4, 8 a.m to Wed., Nov. 5, 5 p.m., Hilton-Airport/Mall of America. Learn more and Register >>
> MN Environmental Fund: Shop For A Cause, Tues., Nov. 4, 5-8 p.m., Ten Thousand Villages Gift Store, 867 Grand Ave., St. Paul. Click here to learn about Ten Thousand Villages
> Pilgrim House Unitarian Fellowship: Minnesota Clean Energy Solutions (J. Drake Hamilton, Science Policy Director, Fresh Energy). Sun., Nov. 9, 10:15-11:30 a.m., 1212 W. Highway 96, Arden Hills, MN
> UM Cont. Ed: Building Minnesota’s Capacity For Climate Adaptation: Second Conference On Climate Adaptation, Nov. 6, 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Hyatt Regency Hotel (1300 Nicollet Mall, Mpls.) Information:) Online Registration>>
> Sierra Club-North Star: Minnesota Beyond Coal To Clean Energy, Sat., Nov.15, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Minneapolis (location TBD).RSVP: http://sc.org/MNBeyondCoalRetreat Questions: (firstname.lastname@example.org)