How Do Foreigners View America? (Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher)
An article I read this past week helps explain perceptions of America by many foreigners, notably Europeans. When expatriates engage in conversation with citizens of other countries, they often gain insights as to how the U.S. is viewed. According to Ann Jones, an expat living in Norway, we’re not as highly respected and beloved as we once were—or think we are today. She offers some substantive reasons for foreigners’ negative impressions in her disturbing article, Is This Country Crazy?, which is listed in the Enlightenment section below.
I imagine Jones’s conclusions coincide with observations made by many Americans who have traveled abroad and conversed candidly with citizens of other countries. Contrary to the wishful thinking of “super-patriotic” Americans—those who believe America remains the beacon of all that’s good, just, and right in the world—it just ain’t so (pardon my English).
Our country has many admirable qualities that are lauded worldwide, but ever since the post-WWII decade the U.S.’s enviable reputation as an international paragon of virtue has slowly eroded. Throughout the post WWII reconstruction era the U.S. served a worldwide benefactor role—creating economic stability, promoting social equality, and spreading democratic ideals. In subsequent decades, however, the U.S. has fought a series of undeclared wars, toppled legitimate governments, and extended its imperial might and influence to most global areas. In pursuing a multi-decades goal to advance our national interests, we’ve managed to antagonize masses of people in unfriendly countries, and disappointed our friendly allies. Our most vociferous critics decry our overall self-absorbed, imperialistic behavior, presumably a manifestation of “American Exceptionalism”.
Rather than further rambling, I strongly encourage you to read Jones’s article. She tells it like it is, in words that will arouse self-righteous indignation in right-wingers, and stir the liberal sensibilities of left-wingers.
ENVIRONMENT (• Natural Resources • Wildlife • Climate)
> Common Dreams: Losing The Climate Fight: Has 400 Ppm Become Planet’s New Normal? (Deirdre Fulton). Two weeks into 2015 and experts are expressing surprise and worry that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has already topped the 400 parts per million threshold several times—a troubling indication for the year ahead and an expression of humanity’s continued failure to act on climate change.
> Eco Watch: The Research Is In: Regulations Alone Won’t Save Us From Climate Disaster (Wenonah Hauter). We are convinced that any serious attempt to address climate change means that a large portion of the natural gas, oil and coal currently locked underground must remain unexploited.
> Common Dreams: It’s Official: 2014 Ranks As World’s Warmest Year On Record (Andrea Germanos). 2014 was the Earth’s warmest year since records began in 1880, according to reports from federal scientists published Friday.
> Time: A Bad Day For Climate Change Deniers … And The Planet (James Kluger). The release of a trio of new studies ought to serve as solid body blows to the fading but persistent fiction that human-mediated warming is somehow a hoax. Good news for the forces of reason, however, is bad news for the planet—especially the oceans.
> MinnPost: Blooming Algae May Be Changing Lakes For The Worse – And Possibly Forever (Ron Meader). A new study of noxious blue-green algae suggests that their summertime blooms may be on the rise not only because of changing climate conditions and continued fertilizer runoff, but also because these phytoplankton have a special gift for self-perpetuation: an ability to make use of phosphorus deposits buried long ago in lake-bottom sediments.
> The New York Times: Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction, Broad Study Says. There are clear signs already that humans are harming the oceans to a remarkable degree, the scientists found. Some ocean species are certainly overharvested, but even greater damage results from large-scale habitat loss, which is likely to accelerate as technology advances the human footprint, the scientists reported.
ENERGY (• Fossil Carbon • Natural Resources • Renewables)
> Resilience-Crude Oil Peak: Tight Oil Boom Can Explain Only Part Of Drop In US Oil Product Imports (Matt Mushalik). This analysis shows by way of several charts that since 2005/06 only around one quarter of a drop of 1.7 mb/d can be explained by the tight oil boom. US product imports peaked 2005/06 at 3.6 mb/d, 5 years before the tight oil boom started, and dropped to 1.9 mb/d in 2014 (estimate). Out of this drop, only 700 kb/d – or 37% – happened during the tight oil boom.
> Weathering the Storm: An Unconventional Truth (Mike Conley). The dramatic plunge in oil prices has exposed an “unconventional” truth: Not all oil is created equal. Recent events have shaken our fantasy of becoming the new Saudi Arabia of oil. It was based on the false premise that “conventional” and “unconventional” oil are one in the same.
> Yale Environment 360: Could Global Tide Be Starting To Turn Against Fossil Fuels (Fred Pierce). From an oil chill in the financial world to the recent U.S.-China agreement on climate change, recent developments are raising a question that might once have been considered unthinkable: Could this be the beginning of a long, steady decline for the oil and coal industries?
> Peak Oil News:Dumb And Dumber: U.S. Crude Oil Export (Arthur E. Berman). Exporting crude oil and natural gas from the United States are among the dumbest energy ideas of all time, because: the U.S. will never be oil self-sufficient and will never import less than about 6 million barrels of oil per day; U.S. total production will peak in a few years and imports will increase; and the U.S. is a relatively minor reserve holder in the world.
ECONOMY (• Finances • Global • Local)
> CASSE-The Daly News: A Population Perspective On The Steady State Economy (Herman Daly). A steady-state economy is defined as having a constant population and a constant stock of physical capital. In a way it is an extension of the demographer’s model of a stationary population to include non-living populations of artifacts, with production rates equal to depreciation rates, as well as birth rates equal to death rates. The basic idea goes back to the classical economists, including John Stuart Mill.
> Resilience-The Heretics Guide to Global Finance: Show Me The Real Money: Three Monetary Myths That Need Busting (Brett Scott). Money pervades our everyday economic interactions, but despite its importance it is also pervasively misunderstood. Here are three common monetary myths frequently perpetuated by economists that need challenging.
> New Economics: Deflation And The Eurozone: Why Falling Prices Aren’t Always Good News (James Meadway). As oil prices continue to fall, deflation is making its presence felt across Europe. If you know that the price of anything you buy will be less in the future, just buy it later. Also, falling prices mean producers earn less money from selling goods and services, which leads to cutting costs.
> Resilience: What Is The “Social Economy”? (John Restakis). The social economy is composed of civil organizations and networks that are driven by the principles of reciprocity and mutuality in service to the common good – usually through the social control of capital. In its essence, the social economy is a space and a practice where economics is at the service of social ends, not the other way round.
> Common Dreams: Don’t Buy The Hype: 20 Years Of Data Reveals ‘Free Trade’ Fallacies (Deidre Fulton). Fast-tracked international trade deals have led to exploding U.S. trade deficits, soaring food imports into the U.S., increased off-shoring of American jobs, and an “unprecedented rise in income inequality,” according to new data released Thursday by the watchdog group Public Citizen.
EXPECTATIONS-ENLIGHTENMENT (• Ideas • Psychology • Beliefs)
> Huffington Post: Is This Country Crazy? (Ann Jones) Europeans have watched the United States unravel its flimsy safety net, fail to replace its decaying infrastructure, disempower most of its organized labor, diminish its schools, bring its national legislature to a standstill, and create the greatest degree of economic and social inequality in almost a century. They understand why Americans, who have ever less personal security and next to no social welfare system, are becoming more anxious and fearful.
> Archdruid Report: March Of The Squirrels (J. M. Greer). So far, the crash of 2015 is running precisely to spec. Smaller companies in the energy sector are being hammered by the plunging price of oil, while the banking industry insists that it’s not in trouble. It’s an interesting regularity of history that the closer to disaster a society in decline becomes, the more grandiose, triumphalist, and detached from the grubby realities its fantasies generally get.
> Common Dreams: That Was Easy: In Just 60 Years, Neoliberal Capitalism Has Nearly Broken Planet Earth (Jon Queally). According to a new pair of related studies, humanity’s rapacious growth and accelerated energy needs over the last generation—particularly fed by an economic system that demands increasing levels of consumption and inputs of natural resources—are fast driving planetary systems towards their breaking point.
> Huffington Post: The Danger The Planet Faces Because Human Instinct Overpowers Human Reason (David Ropeik). We are compelled from the deepest level of our genes and survival instincts to taking more from the system than it can provide and put back in more waste than it can handle, and no amount of human brain power can outwit the natural instincts that are driving us 150 miles an hour toward a cliff.
> Grist: Is “Resilience” The New Sustainababble? (Laurie Mazur & Denise Fairchild). Suddenly, “resilience” is everywhere. It’s the subject of serious books and breezy news articles, of high-minded initiatives and of many, many conferences. Resilience is all about our capacity to survive and thrive in the face of disruptions of all kinds. If we were to take resilience seriously, we would make some far-reaching changes in how we live.
EQUITY (• Equality • Health • Social Concerns)
> Common Dreams: Failure Of Conscience’: Groups Urge Congress To Fund Social Well-Being, Not Fossil Fuel Industry (Nadia Prupis). “Leaving the social safety net in tatters and keeping Big Oil on the dole is not just a failure to prioritize. It is a failure of conscience.” Altogether, the cost of government subsidies for the oil and gas industry totals $6.45 billion, an amount that could provide 5,469,579 children free or low-cost health insurance up to age 19.
> CNBC: Aspen, Detroit Share Real Estate Phenomenon (Robert Frank). Detroit is a fallen factory town hounded by poverty. Aspen is a fast-rising mountain resort feasting on the fruits of the plutonomy and the global super rich. Houses in Detroit can’t be given away, while the average home price in Aspen is worth more than $5 million.
> ENSIA: The Leading Cause Of Death In Developing Countries Might Surprise You (Richard Fuller). What’s the leading cause of death in low- and middle-income countries: malnutrition/under-nutrition; tuberculosis, malaria & HIV/AIDS; or pollution? Surprise, it’s “C”!. Exposures to polluted soil, water and air (both household and ambient) killed 8.4 million people in these countries in 2012.
ENGAGEMENT (• Goals • Activism • Solutions)
> Peak Prosperity: What Should I Do? – Crash Course Chapter 26 (Adam Taggart). If there’s one message to take away from this newly updated Crash Course video series, it’s this: It’s time for you to become more resilient and more engaged. Things are changing quickly and nobody knows how much time we have before the next economic, ecological or energy related crisis erupts. Nobody knows when, but we do have a pretty good idea of what is coming.
> On The Commons: Way To Go! (Jay Walljasper). Driving less is good news for everybody because broader transportation choices are linked to a bounty of social and economic benefits, including expanded economic development, revitalized urban and suburban communities, increased social equity, reduced household transportation costs, improved public health, decreased traffic congestion, and improved environmental conditions.
> National Geographic: Securing Water For Urban Farms (Sandra Postel). Linking urban water management more closely to urban farming has the potential to increase food security, water productivity, and community health, while reducing chemical fertilizer use, long-distance food and water imports, and related greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.
> Environmental Defense Fund: Blueprint For Climate Stability (Fred Krupp). EDF’s president surveys five powerful trends that are driving momentum for climate action and describes an ambitious plan to rein in global emissions by 2020.
> Breaking Energy: ‘Climate Geoengineering’: As Contingency Plan Perhaps The Sharpest Tool In The World’s Climate Tool Box (Roman Kilisek). The debate about the development and deployment of geoengineering technologies is slowly creeping into the mainstream media. See also: Energy Department Project Captures And Stores One Million Metric Tons Of Carbon.
EVENTS AND INFORMATION
> Eastside Food Co-op: Movie Night—Fed Up (The film the food industry doesn’t want you to see), Thurs., Jan. 22, 6:30 p.m., EFC Granite Studio. Free; RSVP firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-843-5409
> Dakota County Citizens’ Climate Lobby: Meet and Greet, Thurs., Jan. 22, 6-9pm, JoJos Rise and Wine Café, 12501 Nicollet Avenue, Burnsville, MN. Info: Deborah Nelson (952-250-3320; email@example.com)
> Minnesota Clean Energy & Jobs Day On The Hill, Mon., Feb. 2, 9:30am-4pm, MN State Capitol, St. Paul. Registration Online: http://bit.ly/1392C4W