I Believe, Therefore I Must Be Right (Clifton Ware, Editor/Publisher)
The two words in the declaration “I believe” can make a potent impression on listeners or readers. Thanks to our advanced mental skills, each of us constructs a belief system or worldview that provides a functional psycho-emotional foundation for managing life’s many challenges.
Fortunately, regardless of the validity of our belief system, we are able to survive and perhaps even thrive when living conditions are relatively stable. Proof of this assertion rests in the fact that, although humans worldwide espouse a wide range of beliefs, all are managing to get by in life, albeit some more successfully than others.
And here we may ask: Are some belief systems more serviceably effective than others? I think so, because an effective belief system stimulates greater freedom of expression, the result of nurturing such positive qualities as curiosity, inclusiveness, complexity, flexibility, and creativity—the types of qualities that enable us to consider a wide range of topics, including issues deemed too sensitive, or even taboo in some societies.
Personally, I believe that all topics should be open to intellectual study, intelligent discussion, skeptical criticism, and civil debate. Such open-mindedness ensures the freedom to address the most controversial human concerns, including politics, culture, health, the natural environment, and especially religious beliefs. I think you’ll agree that our most remarkable human attribute is the ability to integrate critical reasoning and temper emotionalism in seeking equitable, practical solutions in managing all aspects of living well.
Each of us depends on others to provide useful knowledge and skills, beginning with parents or caregivers in childhood, and gradually expanding to include family members, teachers, religious leaders, politicians, and media pundits. For most of our adult lives, we rely on conventional media sources for the latest news and views, a topic to be addressed shortly.
When interpreting any news or views, most well-balanced, rational-minded persons rely on using a combination of: curiosity—a desire to learn as much as possible; skepticism—an attitude of doubt or disbelief (when warranted); and critical thinking—a reliance on evaluating, analyzing, and judging any idea or action. As fallible beings, most of us fall short of using our full psycho-emotional capacities in practicing principled thought, talk, and walk. Only saints are capable of thinking and acting rationally in most situations, and they are few and far between.
This leads us to consider the powerful reach of the media in influencing our beliefs. When media are used primarily to shape others’ beliefs, the disseminated information may be construed as indoctrination or propaganda, the systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause that reflects the views and interests of certain causes or groups. This is largely what we’re experiencing daily in the conventional media, with individuals, corporations, and organizations shaping our attitudes and behaviors—to consume more, to vote this way or that way, to support this cause or that cause. The sad reality is that most people seldom question what they hear and see in the conventional media. In such cases, it may be said that we’re not using our “thinking caps”. This follow-the-herd-instinct may be summarized with the biblical text found in Handel’s Messiah: “All we, like sheep, have gone astray!”
So where can we find substantive, factual, less-biased information? For an answer, begin by reading an informative article by Chris Hedges: The Myth Of The Free Press. Also, in the Expectations section you’ll find several articles for curious-minded readers, and none are associated with the conventional media. Trust me, they’re worth reading.
ENVIRONMENT (Natural Resources-Wildlife-Climate)
> Yes! Matt Damon, Harrison Ford Lead All-Star Cast In Showtime Climate Change Series. If we’re to preserve the planet we call home, it’s time to go big. This 9-episode series weaves together important elements of the climate change story, from how scientists study it to how effects—such as droughts, wildfires, heat waves, and melting glaciers—are playing out. Perhaps most importantly, it thoughtfully explores how politics and religion divide people and impede action on this critical issue.
> TC Daily Planet: When It Comes To Climate Change, Our Feelings Do Matter. We talk a lot about the science of climate change and the economic impacts of various solutions, but we don’t always talk about how we feel about it. Embedded in the science, the calls to action, and the debating are deeply felt emotions: Anger, sadness and despair, and hope that solutions will create a healthier, more equitable world.
> Washington Post: The World’s Climate Change Watchdog May Be Underestimating Global Warming (Chris Mooney). We do not always hear directly from the IPCC about how bad things could be. For instance, by 2100, sea level rise could be plenty worse than the IPCC suggests — and realizing this might lead policymakers around the world to view global warming very differently.
> Associated Press: Climate Change Is Real, Humans Are Mostly To Blame, Time Is Short, UN Panel Says (In MPR)”Rising rates and magnitudes of warming and other changes in the climate system, accompanied by ocean acidification, increase the risk of severe, pervasive, and in some cases irreversible detrimental impacts,” the report said.
> MinnPost: Poor Irrigation Has Poisoned Much Of World’s Farmland With Salts, Study Finds. Based on the IWEH estimate of 2,000 hectares or 5,000 acres lost per day, and a gazetteer figure of 33.7 square miles for the island of Manhattan, the world is losing that much acreage every four and a half days. It’s estimated that the annual losses attributable to salt-induced land degradation might amount to $27.3 billion worldwide.
> NPR: As Infrastructure Crumbles, Trillions Of Gallons Of Water Lost (In MPR). But not all of that treated, potable water makes it through the system to homes and businesses. In fact, quite a bit of it is lost. Where does it go? Much of it just leaks out of aging pipes and water mains that crack and break.
> Thomson Reuters Foundation: Sao Paulo Running Out Of Water As Rain-Making Amazon Vanishes. South America’s biggest and wealthiest city may run out of water by mid-November if it doesn’t rain soon. São Paulo, a Brazilian megacity of 20 million people, is suffering its worst drought in at least 80 years, with key reservoirs that supply the city dried up after an unusually dry year.
> Food Tank: Dirt In Danger: How Soil Around The World Is Threatened (Kathlee Freeman). For a multitude of reasons, including modern agricultural practices, the world’s soil is at risk. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), “Half of the topsoil on the planet has been lost in the last 150 years.” “Additionally, as a result of erosion over the past 40 years, 30 percent of the world’s arable land has become unproductive.”
ENERGY (Fossil Carbon-Natural Resources-Renewables)
> Post Carbon Institute: The Peak Oil Crisis: A Reality Check (Tom Whipple). This week the Post Carbon Institute (PCI) released a detailed study of the prospects for US shale oil and shale gas production entitled Drilling Deeper – A Reality Check on the US Government Forecasts for a lasting Tight Oil and Shale Gas Boom. This new study takes a hard, detailed look at what has actually happened during the shale boom to date and at the EIA’s projections.
> Resilience: Is There Really An Oil Glut? (Kurt Cobb). Between consumers who can’t afford to pay higher and higher oil prices, and companies that can’t afford to produce the extra oil we’d like at lower prices, we are stuck in an ever-shrinking no man’s land, a price band really–one that will eventually disappear, as the average cost of producing the extra barrel of oil goes beyond what consumers, and businesses, can and will pay.
> Common Dreams: 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 and gas production are unfounded.
> Common Dreams: Tar Sands Resistance Blowing Huge Hole In Oil Industry’s Bottom Line: Report. The growing tide of tar sands resistance—seen in blockades, tree sits, petitions, education efforts and calls to divest—is having a measurable negative impact on the bottom line of the tar sands industry, according to a new report, prompting researchers to declare that “business as usual for tar d sands is over.”
> ENSIA: This Infographic Shows Why Renewable Energy Is Here To Stay. This infographic depicts the evolution and future growth of renewable energy, from WWI to the present and beyond.
> Common Dreams: Oil Industry Set To Ignore “Final Warning” On Climate Change (Andy Rowell). The bottom line is that because the fossil fuel industry has so much capital already invested or lined up to be spent extracting fossil fuels, it will just carry on doing so, ignoring the desperate calls for action from the climate scientists.
> Post Carbon Institute: How To Shrink The Economy Without Crashing It: A Ten-Point Plan (Richard Heinberg). The human economy is currently too big to be sustainable. We know this because Global Footprint Network, which methodically tracks the relevant data, informs us that humanity is now using 1.5 Earths’ worth of resources.
> Yes! Before The Zombie Apocalypse—These 4 Trade Deals Were Ravaging The World! What really keeps us at YES! Magazine up at night are the international trade agreements [free trade] constantly being negotiated by the United States and its partners—each one more terrifying than the last.
> Bloomberg News: Hackers Probing Financial System’s Defenses Show Why Everyone Should Worry. Financial companies are losing ground to hackers, according to a report by management-consulting firm Deloitte. In 2013, 88 percent of all successful intrusions into the computer systems of financial companies were accomplished in seconds, minutes or hours, not days, Deloitte found, while 79 percent of intrusions were discovered by the targeted firms only after days, weeks or months.
> WeTheEconomy: We The Economy (22 Short Films, including “A Bee’s Invoice: The Hidden Value in Nature”). In the current economic climate, the need for citizens to be engaged and informed is greater than ever. Distributed digitally, across multiple platforms and in theaters, WE THE ECONOMY will do both… and best of all: it’s available everywhere, to everyone.
LastOurs: Last Hours. This 10-minute documentary is a must-see experience for a succinct overview of global-warming’s potential to destroy life on earth.
> Peak Prosperity: About that Shale Oil ‘Miracle’… (Chris Martenson). It’s been said that humans are rationalizing — not ‘rational’ — animals. The deep truth in that statement is that we humans have strongly-held beliefs that color the information we take in and accept. We’re often guilty of recognizing only the data that supports those beliefs while rejecting the rest.
> The Archdruid Report: Dark Age America: Involuntary Simplicity (J.M. Greer). 23,000 man hours is a barrel of oil equivalent (BOE), so if you are employing energy at those rates you can produce debt at those rates, because pretty soon there will be work done to pay off the debt and interest (the energy from fossil carbon doing the work). What has changed with the advent of peak oil is that the future is one of debts not being able to be re-payed, because there isn’t the energy to do the work to pay the debts.
> Solutions: Introduction: Why Resilience? (Joseph Fiksel). While there are many definitions of resilience, it can generally be defined as the capacity for a system to survive, adapt, and flourish in the face of turbulent change and uncertainty.1 In short, this means the ability to overcome adversity and bounce back.
> The Daly News: Are We Hard-Wired To Think We Can Grow Forever? (James Magnus-Johnston) Is there an evolutionary mechanism stopping us from living within our planetary constraints? In Denial: Self-Deception, False Beliefs, and the Origins of the Human Mind, co-authors Varki and Brower argue that human intelligence is unique in the animal kingdom, but our capacity for denial may be the greatest differentiating factor.
> AlterNet: The Coming Revolution: Evolutionary Leap Or Descent Into Chaos (David DeGraw) A new paradigm is organically evolving: new economic systems, sustainable communities, solar energy, organic farming, liquid democracy, worker co-ops and new media. For all the problems we are confronted by, there are existing viable solutions. This is Part 3 in a series of adapted excerpts from DeGraw’s new book, The Economics of Revolution. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
> Resilience: Sufficient Liberal Stories–The Krugman Function Part 4 (Erik Lindberg). The primary narrative of Krugman, Reich, and the whole Liberal enterprise today is a narrative of perpetual repeatability with regard to past accomplishments (FDR’s New Deal, etc.) The introduction just of oil supply and carbon emissions into the liberal field of view pretty much undoes the main story told by mainstream Democrats today.
EQUITY (Equality-Health-Social Concerns)
> AlterNet: Americans Are Huge: 5 Surprising Reasons Why. Between the 1960s and the 2000s, Americans grew, on the average, an inch taller and 24 pounds heavier. The average American man today weights 194 pounds and the average woman 165 pounds. Almost a third of American children and teens are overweight.
> Common Dreams: Infuriating Facts About Our Disappearing Middle-Class Wealth (Paul Bucheit). People in the U.S. and around the world are being rapidly divided into two classes, the well-to-do and the lower-income majority. This severing of society will change only when progressive thinkers (and doers) agree on a single, manageable solution that will stop the easy flow of wealth to the privileged few.
> Resilience-Transition Voice: American Kids In The Age Of Oil: ‘Economically Worthless But Emotionally Priceless’ (Erik Curren). Only in an industrial economy where energy is cheap and corporations provide most of a household’s needs can families afford to turn two generations, the youngest and the oldest, into economically unnecessary people — Two generations of mouths-to-feed who don’t carry their own weight.
> Grassroots Economic Organizing: Ways To Create A Democratized Economy (Gar Alperovitz). This article is excerpted from What Then Can I Do? 10 Ways to Democratize the Economy, which originally appeared on Gar Alperovitz’s website. The full article is also available in PDF format here.
> Green Money: REIT, Drink, And Be Merry: Farmland LP’s Fund Gives Investors, Enviros, And Foodies Something To Cheer About (Rob Dietz & Eric Roach). Farmland LP (www.farmlandlp.com) is an investment fund that buys conventional farmland, converts it to organic using a pasture and crop rotation, and then manages the farmland for an optimal mix of environmental health, food production, and financial returns.
> ENSIA: Cities Are The Greatest Hope For Our Planet (Denis Hayes). Cities matter because they represent our greatest hope for long-term survival, not only for humans but for all species. They offer the best chance to dramatically reduce carbon pollution, provide shelter and community for the world’s growing human population, and protect rural habitat for species in decline.
> Shareable: Sharehub: At The Heart Of Seoul’s Sharing Movement. In 2012, Seoul publicly announced its commitment to becoming a sharing city. It has since emerged as a leader of the global sharing movement and serves as a model for cities around the world.
> TC Daily Planet: No Big Bucks Needed For Complete Streets. Here are some lessons from NYC in creating interesting, safe, attractive, and inexpensive upgraded streets for pedestrian use.
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 Idelle Peterson; “The Ebola Crisis”, material presented by Peter Doughty; plus discussion of articles by various writers, and presented by participants. Seating limited to 20 persons. 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.12 — How Can We Help Children Connect to the Natural World?
- Nov.19 — Environmentalists and Corporations Make Strange Bedfellows . . . Or Do They?
> 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
> Sierra Club-North Star: Minnesota Beyond Coal To Clean Energy, Sat., Nov.15, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Sabathani Community Center, 310 East 38th Street Mpls., MN. RSVP: http://sc.org/MNBeyondCoalRetreat Questions: (firstname.lastname@example.org)
> MN350-MCAD: Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (feature-length documentary of a filmmaker’s undercover investigation of the cattle industry). Sun., Nov. 23, 6:30 p.m., MN Institute of Arts Auditorium. 2501 Stevens Ave, Mpls. Free (donation requested).