Keep Talking About IT! Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher
“IT” in the title of this commentary refers to sustainability, the main focus of this newsletter. The statement—“Keep talking about it”—was passed on to me by my beloved spouse-partner, Bettye, who read it on Facebook recently, attributing it to either Bill Nye or Neil deGrasse Tyson.
This positive statement is a practical response to persons feeling overwhelmed by a plethora of converging crises and wondering: “What can I (we) do?” Simply speaking, the least one can do is to keep talking about it. In any promotional campaign, the more the public experiences a single word or phrase, the more effective it becomes, at least over the long term. This newsletter, in presenting a variety of news and views related to creating resilience and sustainability, “keeps talking about it”.
In this issue we lead with the Enlightenment section, which includes five stimulating articles that address various aspects of sustainability. Richard Heinberg’s article heads the group with “Only Less Will Do”, a thesis that a majority of well-to-do citizens find abhorrent — no matter the preponderance of evidential data indicating that material growth is mathematically limited, principally due to declining natural resources.
Chris Martenson’s article is the most alarming, with his sincere, well-founded concerns about the growing potential for increasingly aggressive conflicts between Russia, the U.S. and our NATO allies. Michael Conley, Eric Zencey, and Ugo Bardi weigh in with articles that relate to similar concerns. Even a cursory skimming of these articles will provide increased awareness of the problems we face, in creating a sustainable existence for all life on planet Earth.
ENLIGHTENMENT (• Expectations • Ideas • Beliefs • Psychology)
> Peak Oil: Only Less Will Do (Richard Heinberg). Almost nobody likes to hear about the role of scale in our global environmental crisis. That’s because if growth is our problem, then the only real solution is to shrink the economy and reduce population.
> Peak Prosperity: Special Report: Is It Time To Prepare For War? (Chris Martenson). I am finding the risk of a major conflict between NATO/EU and Russia to be high and seemingly growing higher with every passing week. Such are the times in which we live. It leaves me asking if it’s time to begin preparing for war, which means being ready for the worst.
> Weathering the Storm: The Perfect Storm In 2014 (Michael Conley). The forces of the “perfect storm” continued to escalate in an insidious and stealth-like manner in 2014. Malignantly growing and hidden – metaphorically speaking – beneath the waterline of an “iceberg” called life, we fixated on the tip of the iceberg and overlooked the real threats lurking below.
> CASSE-The Daly Report: Adjusting the Fifth to a Finite Planet, Part 1 (Eric Zencey). Infinite-Planet Thinking is deeply embedded in our political economy. It’s there in the expectation that investments will pay off at a continually compounding rate. It’s there in the unquestioned consensus among elected officials that economic growth is always good–that it can’t possibly ever be uneconomic growth, costing us more in lost natural and social capital than we gain from additional consumption.
> Peak Oil: How Do Empires Hunt Bears? The Control Of Natural Resources From Ancient Rome To Our Times. (Ugo Bardi). You probably know the joke that starts with the question “how do economists hunt bears?” The answer is, “they don’t, but they believe that if bears are paid enough, they’ll hunt themselves.” It is a good illustration of the awesome power of money. It doesn’t work so well with bears, but, if paid enough, people will engage in all sorts of nasty and unpleasant activities, including hunting and killing other human beings.
ENVIRONMENT (• Natural Resources • Wildlife • Climate)
> Resilience: Lord Man Parable: Video (Tom Butler). This 5-minute video does a superb job of introducing the perils of overdevelopment, overpopulation, and overshoot.
> Inside Climate News: Q&A: ‘Merchants Of Doubt’ Author On The Origins & Persistence Of Climate Denialism (Katherine Bagley). Naomi Oreskes discusses the network of pundits and scientists who have delayed action on climate change, and how they did it.
> Star Tribune: Buffer Strip Bill Has Support From Sports Groups, Opposition From Farmers (Doug Smith). Recently, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issued a report saying many of the lakes and streams in southwest Minnesota are unsafe for both people and fish to swim in. Nitrate pollution from farmland is a major problem. And of 93 streams the study examined, only three were able to fully support aquatic life, and only one was safe for aquatic recreation.
> ENSIA: The Environment Goes To Washington. Looking for a reason to visit Washington, D.C., next week? The Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital — billed as the “largest and longest-standing environmental film festival in the United States” — is the place to be March 17–29. View a 3-minute video.
> Upstream: Recycling In The Anthropocene (Bill Sheehan). Science writer Emma Marris’s Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World (2013) gives a thoughtful overview of people and projects exploring new approaches to conservation in the Anthropocene, the age of human-dominated ecosystems.
ENERGY (• Carbon Based • Renewable)
> Our Finite World: The Oil Glut And Low Prices Reflect An Affordability Problem (Gail Tverberg). For a long time, there has been a belief that the decline in oil supply will come by way of high oil prices. Demand will exceed supply. It seems to me that this view is backward–the decline in supply will come through low oil prices.
> Oil Price: Big Changes Needed For Big Oil To Survive (Michael Klare). In the 1990s, the oil industry focused its efforts on extracting as much oil as possible, regardless of the difficulty or risk of a given project. Fast forward to 2015 and the industry is beset by falling prices, increased competition from renewables and an ever-strengthening climate change movement. It is now sink or swim for fossil fuels in a new energy price era.
> Resource Insights: Lipstick On A Pig: America As The World’s Swing Producer Of Oil (Kurt Cobb). Most people have heard the old saying: “You can put lipstick on a pig. But it’s still a pig.” That’s sort of what is happening in the American oil patch as producers try to put a positive gloss on the devastation that low oil prices are visiting on the industry.
> New York Times: Emissions By Makers Of Energy Level Off (John Schwartz). For all of the progress, however, billions of people will be entering the middle class in coming years. “Some of these early gains are going to be wiped out pretty quickly unless we develop some of the renewable energy sources that can replace fossil fuels.” (Steve Cohen, Earth Institute at Columbia U)
ECONOMY (• Finances • Commerce • Global-Local)
> MinnPost: Community Voices: For Lasting Climate-Change Reform, Focus On Consumption (Sam Rockwell). Markedly absent in mainstream conversations are suggestions that Americans simply consume less. Ideas that do circulate about lifestyle change tend to be either “back to the land” proposals or framed in the language of “giving people options”: bicycle lanes give people the option to get out of their cars; condos provide snazzy options for young people and empty nesters. Few propose regulating or actively disincentivizing consumption.
> The Archdruid Report: The Prosthetic Imagination [False Data] (J. M. Greer). The jubilation about a current 5.5% unemployment rate makes perfect sense so long as you don’t happen to know that the official unemployment rate in the United States doesn’t actually depend on the number of people who are out of work, but rather the number receiving unemployment benefits. It’s worth noting that 92,898,000 Americans of working age are not currently in the work force—that is, more than 37 per cent of the working age population.
EQUITY (• Equality • Health • Social Concerns)
> Yes! Magazine: Do Corporations Really Need More Rights? Why Fast Track For The TPP Is A Bad Idea (David Korten). The TPP is presented as an agreement to increase U.S. exports and jobs. But what is really at stake is democracy—in the United States as well as in the 11 other Pacific Rim countries that are parties to the TPP. By strengthening corporate rule, its provisions will likely have significant implications for nearly every aspect of American life, including jobs.
> Resilience: How Agriculture Grew On Us (Vera Bradova). Homo sapiens lived in relative equality, in small foraging bands all its existence from the time they emerged about 200,000 years ago. Then, around 30,000 years ago, during a bit more clement time within the last ice age, glimmerings of inequality arose at sites known in Europe — in places that were unusually plentiful in game.
ENGAGEMENT (• Goals • Activism • Solutions)
> Transition US: Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage: Living Abundantly On 10%. In 1996, attracted to the low cost of land and the lenient zoning restrictions, a group of young Stanford graduates raised money from friends and family and headed to northeastern Missouri to set up what is now known as Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, a successful intentional community and 270-acre community land trust. Their idea was to “move beyond protesting ecological destruction towards finding a positive alternative for ecological living.”
> ENSIA: Environmental Activism Needs “Good Cops” And “Bad Cops (Marvin Smith). Environmental activism shouldn’t be an either/or proposition. While bad cops can disagree with good cops, both roles are critical.
> Yes! Magazine: Beyond The CSA: Four Ways Communities Support Everything From Books To Beer (Dana Drugmand). You know the model: Consumers purchase a share of the season’s harvest upfront and get a box of fresh produce each week from the farm. Now you can get your medicine and artworks that way too.
> Star Tribune: Tiny (House) Idea Has Big Promise For Helping The Homeless. (Jenna Ross). The village has inspired international curiosity and could become a template for similar projects. Activists, nonprofits and students from hundreds of cities — including Rochester, Duluth and St. Cloud — have e-mailed, called and visited. One guy recently stopped by from Australia. Google is interested.
> Star Tribune: Minneapolis, Food-Sellers Prep For A Ban On Foam Food Containers (Erin Golden). Restaurants, hotels and other businesses that sell takeout food in Minneapolis have six weeks to go before they’ll no longer be able to package food in foam containers — or in any container that isn’t recyclable, reusable or compostable.
> Global Solutions Forum: Overpopulation Is Solvable, David Paxson, Director, World Population Balance (http://www.worldpopulationbalance.org/), Thurs., Mar.19, 6:45 p.m., Plymouth Congregational Church (Jackson Room, lower level), 1900 Nicollet Ave. S. Mpls.
> Women, the New Economy, and Anti-Poverty: Let’s Talk Strategy To Achieve A Basic Income, Friday, March 20th, 6:30–8:30 pm, 4200 Cedar Ave. S., Mpls. Speakers: Kristine Osbakken, Jurgen De Wispelaere, Liane Gale. Free event. Information: www.facebook.com/events/1559710660963183/
> MN350: Action Projects. Several are planned for this spring, including meetings related to Tar Sands, divestments, climate change, energy legislation, teach-in/solutions workshop, and oil shipping. See info on the MN350 website: http://mn350.nationbuilder.com/ ; Also see: Calendar of events, Community meetings, Campaigns, Join an action teams
> Midwest Solar: Midwest Solar Expo 2015, May 13-14, Hilton, Minneapolis. Info: Midwest Solar Expo 2015
> Mississippi Watershed Management Organization: Spring Water & Energy Stewardship Workshops for Congregations, Thurs., Mar. 26th, 6-9 p.m., 2522 Marshall St NE, Mpls. (Lowry and Marshall Ave NE). Free! RSVP (http://tinyurl.com/aforsrsvp). Learn more (www.afors.org/congregations; Sean Gosiewski, Alliance for Sustainability: 612-250-0389; email@example.com)