This Year, So Far . . . (Clifton Ware, Editor/Publisher)
2015 is off to an eventful start, with several notable happenings in the past week. Perhaps the most publicized event was President Obama’s “State of the Union Address”, but since this is such a hot-potato political topic, I’ll pass on commenting—except to say that most of the initiatives he proposed are exciting to ponder. His comments related to climate change were particularly timely:
The best scientists in the world are telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger. The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.
On the environmental front, we received confirmations that 2014 was the hottest year on record, and that a series of “hottest years” has occurred since 2000. In addition to major oil spills in recent months, we were appalled to learn of two major oil-related disasters this past week; first, the massive 50-thousand gallon dumping that is polluting the pristine Yellowstone River in Montana; and next, the 3-million gallons of drilling waste spilled from a North Dakota pipeline. When will the reality that no pipeline is perfectly safe penetrate the public’s consciousness? For certain, the fossil-carbon energy industry will continue denying culpability in disseminating questionable information they use to advance their selfish interests. Also, there’s more evidence that the oceans continue to face humanity’s barrage of indignities.
Richard Heinberg, with the Post Carbon Institute, ranks among the most reputable energy experts today. His article, “Our Renewable Future”, provides an excellent overview of the energy scene and what’s needed to build a low-energy-use future. Financially speaking, Deborah Lawrence posits that savvy investors may benefit from wealth-creating opportunities in the growing renewable-energy economy.
The two articles in the Economy section that describe the current economic scene are by Gail Tverberg—and Chris Martenson, my favorite dispenser of non-conventional information. His article, “When This Ends, Everybody Gets Hurt”, is a “must read” for understanding the pitfalls of an economic system committed to the paradigm of constant economic growth.
John Michael Greer, a futurist expert and noted author of many books, presents deep, dark-green perspectives that are founded on his extensive knowledge of history, particularly as related to the rise and fall of empires, which at some point he suggests will likely include the U.S. I read his blogs regularly, and I find “The Mariner’s Rule” is up to his usual high standard of writing. If he were to reflect on the chilling announcement published this past week in The Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists: “It Is Now 3 Minutes to Midnight”, Greer would probably respond with “I told you so”!
Concerns about equity and equality are addressed in articles referring to the ongoing discussions of inequality in wealth distribution, largely attributed to the unfortunate Citizens United ruling. which continues to rankle progressives. More and more Americans agree that democracy is gravely threatened by the growing extremes in wealth distribution. The unregulated freedom granted a cartel of undeservedly rich Americans to “buy” inordinate political influence and power to further their ideological, socio-economic, and political objectives most Americans consider immoral.
On the bright side, in the engagement section you’ll find some articles that report on some positive initiatives (at last) in identifying and rectifying wrongs, in addition to ways of creating greater resilience and sustainability. Of particular interest are the informative articles describing the underhanded “Seedy Business” of GMO promoters. Additionally, there’s the stimulating video “Don’t Swallow the Lies” (of GMO companies), a must-see presentation. Another interesting video provides an overview of the 2014 Slow Money Conference, with excerpts featuring noted speakers, including Wendell Berry, and a number of participants expressing their enthusiastic views.
I hope you find this newsletter helpful in providing news and views relevant to creating resilience and sustainability. Please let me know any suggestions you may have to offer.
ENVIRONMENT (• Natural Resources • Wildlife • Climate)
> Climate Central: A Broken Record: 2014 Hottest Year (Andrea Thompson). A Climate Central analysis shows that 13 of the hottest 15 years on record, all occurring since 2000, 1 in 27 million odds. Ocean warming really stood out, with sea surface temperatures for the planet at a record 1.03°F above the 20th century average, surpassing 2003 and 1998. See also summary data, downloadable report, and infographic: Off The Charts: 2014 Was Officially The World’s Hottest Year On Record
> New York Times: 2014 Breaks Heat Record, Challenging Global Warming Skeptics. The vast majority of climate scientists say the earth is in a long-term warming trend that is profoundly threatening and caused almost entirely by human activity. They expect the heat to get much worse over coming decades, but already it is killing forests around the world, driving plants and animals to extinction, melting land ice and causing the seas to rise at an accelerating pace.
> CNN: Up To 50,000 Gallons Of Water Spilled In Yellowstone River; Residents Told Not To Drink Water. The massive oil spill happened when the 12-inch pipeline, which crosses the Yellowstone River ruptured Jan.17th, about 5 miles upstream from Glendive, Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality. The Bridger Pipeline Company shut down the pipeline. See also: Nearly 3 Million Gallons Of Drilling Waste Spill From North Dakota Pipeline (Think Progress)
> The Bent of Tau Beta Pi: Pipelines Safety And Security: Is It No More Than A Pipe Dream? (Trudy E. Bell). The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) calculates that 542,500 more miles of pipeline must be installed between now and 2035 to convey hydrocarbons from a projected 1.2 million new wells (307,000 gas and 914,000 oil). Three quarters of that mileage would be laid in the next five years. This lengthy article provides an excellent pipeline primer.
> NRDC: Our Oceans Are On The Verge Of Collapse. Here’s How We Can Help Save Them (Sarah Chasis). A new study published in the journal Science claims that oceans are headed for mass extinctions of fish, marine mammals and other aquatic life, possibly within decades. And the authors further claim that industrial activities are responsible for destroying precious ocean habitats across the globe. But they also say we have the power to solve it–if we act quickly.
ENERGY (• Fossil Carbon • Natural Resources • Renewables)
> Resilience: Our Renewable Future (Richard Heinberg). Is our energy destiny located in a Terra Incognita that neither fossil fuel promoters nor renewable energy advocates talk much about? As maddening as it may be, this conclusion may be the one best supported by the facts. If that uncharted land had a motto, it might be, “How we use energy is as important as how we get it.”
> Oil Voice: The Most Important Thing To Understand About The Coming Oil Production Cutbacks (Kurt Cobb). What the current oil price slump means for world oil supply is starting to emerge. “Layoffs,” “cutbacks,” “delays,” and “cancellations” are words one sees in headlines concerning the oil industry every day. That can only mean one thing in the long run: less supply later on than would otherwise have been the case.
> Energy Policy Forum: Wealth Creation And The New Energy Economy (Deborah Lawrence). There appears to be an underlying current that is gathering momentum, and laying the groundwork for significant new opportunities in wealth creation. Examining climate change through this more expansive lens seems infinitely more palatable than the hollow rhetoric of “less is more”. Indeed, opportunities probably have never been greater.
> Resilience: Energy Crunch: Clean Energy Gains Ground. Ever since oil and gas prices started to plunge, speculation that cheaper fossil fuels would mean a serious setback for renewables has been rife. Considering the latest data, however, it seems renewables are still going strong and it is the fossil fuel industry that is running into both short and long-term difficulties.
ECONOMY (• Finances • Global • Local)
> Our Finite World: A New Theory Of Energy And The Economy – Part 1— Generating Economic Growth (Gail Tverberg). The way the economy is bound together is by a financial system. In some sense, the selling price of any product is the market value of the energy embodied in that product. There is also a cost (which is really an energy cost) of creating the product.
> The Telegraph: Central Bank Prophet Fears QE Warfare Pushing World Financial System Out Of Control (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard). William White, an economic prophet, deplores the rush to QE as an “unthinking fashion”. Those who argue that the US and the UK are growing faster than Europe because they carried out QE early are confusing “correlation with causality”. The Anglo-Saxon pioneers have yet to pay the price. “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings”.
> Peak Prosperity: When This Ends, Everybody Gets Hurt (Chris Martenson). It is our system of money, as controlled by central bankers, that is most likely to break first and hardest, simply because its very design demands endless growth, without which collapse ensues. It’s our view that 2015- 2016 will mark the end of a long run of overly ambitious central bankers and over-complacent markets. A 5-minute video—“A Word of Caution”—is available in connection with the article, A Quick Sanity Check
> Grassroots Economic Organizing: P6: Enacting Cooperative Values (Ruby Levin). Principle Six (P6) provides a pathway for people to use cooperatively owned community institutions to move money into the hands of small, local, and cooperative businesses, the backbone of healthy and sustainable regional food systems everywhere, and powerful models for creating economies based on equity, democracy, and community-based economic development. More info: p6.coop.
> MinnPost: Business-Minded Forecast Sees Climate As Threat To Minnesota Jobs And Culture (Ron Meador). Risky Business project’s first analysis was published last June; it looked at probable climate impacts across the United States. Today’s follow-up is one in a series of regional or state-level close-ups, and focuses on a mid-western zone consisting of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Missouri.
EXPECTATIONS-ENLIGHTENMENT (• Ideas • Psychology • Beliefs)
> The Archdruid Report: The Mariner’s Rule (J. M. Greer). A great many people are only interested in seeking answers that will allow them to keep enjoying the absurd extravagance that passed, not too long ago, for an ordinary lifestyle among the industrial world’s privileged classes, and is becoming just a little bit less ordinary with every year that slips by. And now, having reached peak oil, the party’s over. We best make preparations in advance to create resilience and become more sustainable.
> Common Dreams: The Time Has Come For Local Agriculture (Robert Shetterly). In the 1970s, Joan Dye Gussow, a pioneer of local, organic agriculture, understood the connection between the industrial farming of both crops and animals and climate change: Fossil fuel based fertilizers and pesticides, massive pollution and runoff, soil depletion, dead zones, chemical residue, vegetables without nutrients, mono-cropping, absurd energy usage to move fresh crops all over the world—on and on.
> Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists: It Is Now 3 Minutes To Midnight. Warning that “the probability of global catastrophe is very high” unless quick action is taken, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board today cited unchecked climate change and global nuclear weapons modernization as the basis for their decision to move the hands of the historic Doomsday Clock forward two minutes. The full statement is vailable online: http://thebulletin.org.
> ENSIA: Novel Ecosystems” Are A Trojan Horse For Conservation. The claim is that human influences — especially introduced invasive species, land use changes and global climate change — are altering a large proportion of Earth’s ecosystems at unprecedented rates in a way that could cause assemblages of organisms to “tip” towards new steady states, which should be considered as emerging or, to use the catchier phrase, “novel” ecosystems. (See: novel ecosystems the “new normal”).
> Resilience: Ptolemaic Environmentalism (Eileen Crist). The strategy of creating and sustaining a human-ruled biosphere reaffirms the legitimacy of anthropocentrism, avoids interrogating our relationship with the biosphere and its whole ensemble of life as an ethical matter, and resolutely eschews confronting global civilization as a totalitarian system on Earth.
EQUITY (• Equality • Health • Social Concerns)
> Common Dreams: Single-Payer: It’s What The People Want (Andreas Germanos). A majority of Americans support a single-payer, Medicare-for-all healthcare system, a new poll shows. Almost 80 percent of Democrats supported such a plan, while 25 of Republicans did.
> PR Watch: 5 Years After Citizens United, Democracy Is For Sale (Brendan Fischer). Big money politics means that elected officials are primarily responsive to the policy preferences of their financial supporters rather than average people. Policymakers are primarily responsive to the preferences of a rich, white donor class, and people of color and the poor have their voices marginalized, even as the country grows increasingly diverse.
> Common Dreams: On 5th Anniversary Of Citizens United, Groups Nationwide Decry Corporate Influence In Politics (Deirdre Fulton). Last week, a set of eight reports were released simultaneously, showing that Citizens United “opened the floodgates to big money influence in our democracy, giving special interests and the wealthy more control over our government and economy than they’ve enjoyed since the Gilded Age of the late 19th century,” as Common Cause phrased it.
> Common Dreams: Super Bowl For The Rich: Upper-Class 91, Middle-Class 9 (Paul Bucheit). As the rest of us dutifully pay our taxes, we get blind-sided by wealthy individuals and corporations thata defer their taxes, stash income in tax havens, enjoy a special capital gains tax rate, invest their money in tax-free foundations, or simply don’t pay. 7 international companies, with a combined income last year of $74 billion, paid no taxes, and instead received a combined refund of nearly $2 billion.
ENGAGEMENT (• Goals • Activism • Solutions)
> Equities: The Journey Of Setting Up A Reuse And Repair Centre (Sophie Unwin). We need to tell the stories of where things come from and where things go to, not just the waste of chucking things out, but the waste of all the energy put into mining and making the household goods and gadgets we so take for granted.
> Transition Network: Could You Live Zero Waste For A Year? (Rob Hopkins). Jenny Rustemeyer, the woman behind thecleanbinproject blog, decided to live zero waste for a year”. She was struck by how the extravagant consumerism of modern society, and claims that her life became so much more enjoyable when she really simplified and didn’t have to think about buying unnecessary things.
> US/RTK: Seedy Business: What Big Food Is Hiding With Its Slick PR Campaign On GMOs (Gary Ruskin). This report, in pdf format, details how since 2012, the agrichemical and food industries have mounted a complex, multifaceted public relations, advertising, lobbying and political campaign in the U.S., costing more than $100 million, to defend genetically engineered food and crops and the pesticides that accompany them. Also related, a very informative 12-minute video: Don’t Swallow The Lies (Alan Lewis).
> Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy: Agribusiness And Food Corporations Are Not People (Ben Lilliston). The good news is that a wide cross-section of advocacy organizations are uniting to turn the tide and reclaim our democracy. More than 120 organizations (including IATP), with priorities ranging from racial justice, to workers, to food and farming, to the environment, have signed Unity Principles to reform our political system.
> Slow Money: Slow Money Conference Follow-Up Video. This inspiring 10-minute video presents highlights of the 2014 Slow Money Conference Louisville, KY, including comments by Wendell Berry, Vandana Shiva, Joel Salatin, and others speakers and participants. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wibR31YdDUY&feature=youtu.be).
EVENTS AND INFORMATION
> Minnesota Clean Energy & Jobs Day On The Hill, Mon., Feb. 2, 9:30am-4pm, Christ Lutheran Church (105 University Ave., St. Paul) and MN State Capitol, St. Paul. Registration Online: http://bit.ly/1392C4W; Info: 612-963-4757
> Treehugger (http://www.treehugger.com/): Lots of Helpful Do-It-Yourself Information; See: 6 Ways To Make An Emergency Candle With Household Objects.
> Video Report: Sustainability Fair 2014, Nov. 20, Silverwood Park, St. Anthony Village, MN (http://youtu.be/ArKEk3Actlo)