SEF News-Views Digest No. 86 (4-1-15)
Another April Fools’ Day rolls around, and this year I’m more attuned to it. Some see this day as a celebration related to the turn of the seasons, while others believe it stems from the adoption of a new calendar, when Pope Gregory XIII ordered a new calendar (the Gregorian Calendar-1582)) to replace the old Julian Calendar, which called for New Year’s Day to be celebrated January 1st. Some traditionalists continued to celebrate New Year’s Day on April 1st, and others made fun of them, by sending them on “fool’s errands”, or tricking them into believing something false, a practice that gradually spread throughout the world up to the present.
April Fool’s Day might serve as a reminder that, to some extent, we are all fools. Less flattering synonyms associated with fools are suckers, dupes, and chumps. And then there are jesters, a more benign term. Fools may also be thought of as unintelligent, ridiculous, tricky, and comical individuals. I don’t know about you, but at times in my life I’ve temporarily acted like a fool, particularly in making unwise financial decisions or being coerced into buying unnecessary, over-priced items. I hasten to add that I don’t consider myself a full-time fool, only such on rare occasions, thankfully.
In many areas of life, however, I’ve been fooled many times, in many ways. In fact, being fooled is a full-time occurrence in today’s world of instant communication. How so? Just think of how much information is disseminated by the entrenched media networks and the expanding social media. Most of the information we receive via major networks is supported financially by the hallowed institutions we depend upon for living in this modern world—corporations, government (politicians), for-profit and non-profit organizations, and even educational and religious institutions, to mention a few.
Examples of promotional campaigns to influence public thinking abound. The most damaging example in past years may be attributed to the false and health-threatening information distributed by the tobacco industry over several decades. Today the media deluges us with bogus claims spouted by fossil-energy companies, food and agriculture companies (GMOs), financial companies (investments), anti-science deniers, and practically every business or organization that exists.
Identifying and interpreting the disseminated distortions, half-truths, misinformation, and outright lies requires constant vigilance, an almost impossible task given the amount of spurious information that’s available. So how can we know if the information we receive is providing honest, well-founded factual news and views?
I’ve gradually learned that the mainstream media is so beholden to sponsors that much of the news and views needs to be considered with cautious skepticism. So I now receive most of my news from NPR and PBS, even though these public-sponsored sources have increasingly relied on financial support from major donors, including the infamous Koch brothers. Also, I believe that most sources used in this newsletter are trustworthy. This includes individual sustainability proponents like Chris Martenson (Peak Prosperity) Richard Heinberg (Post Carbon Institute), Herman Daly (CASSE), and John Michael Greer (Archdruid Report), in addition to reputable authors found on such websites as Common Dreams, Resiience, and Yes! Magazine.
No reporter or blogger is accurate all of the time, but I think it’s safe to say you won’t feel like a fool for having read and paid attention to these sources. But, hey, I could be wrong, and it won’t be the first time. In any case, Happy April Fools’ Day!
ENLIGHTENMENT (• Expectations • Ideas • Beliefs • Psychology)
> Resilience: Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot [New book by William Ryerson]. A needlessly ballooning human population exacerbates every major problem facing humanity. Why has the environmental movement chosen to be mostly silent about the fundamental driver of species loss and the destruction of wildlife habitats around the globe? Isn’t it time to start speaking out about the equation that matters most to the future of people and the planet?
> Yes! Magazine: Wendell Berry On Climate Change: To Save The Future, Live In The Present (Wendell Berry). So far as I am concerned, the future has no narrative. The future does not exist until it has become the past. To a very limited extent, prediction has worked. The sun, so far, has set and risen as we have expected it to do. And the world, I suppose, will predictably end, but all of its predicted deadlines, so far, have been wrong. [Excerpts, in two-parts: 2013 and 2014]
> Post Carbon Institute: Afterburn: Society Beyond Fossil Fuels (Richard Heinberg). Afterburn consists of 15 essays exploring various aspects of the 21st century migration away from fossil fuels, including: short-term political and economic factors that impede broad-scale, organized efforts to adapt; the origin of longer-term trends (such as consumerism), that have created a way of life that seems “normal” to most Americans, but is actually unprecedented, highly fragile, and unsustainable; and potential opportunities and sources of conflict that are likely to emerge.
> The Archdruid Report: Planet Of The Space Bats (John Michael Greer). I’ve been talking for quite a while now here about the speculative bubble that’s built up around the fracking phenomenon, and the catastrophic bust that’s guaranteed to follow so vast and delusional a boom. Over the past six months, I’ve noted the arrival of one warning sign after another of the impending crash.
> Alternet: 9 Things Many Americans Just Don’t Grasp (Compared To The Rest Of The World) (Alex Henderson). Far-right ideologues describe life in Europe as hell on Earth. Taxes are high, sexual promiscuity prevails, universal healthcare doesn’t work, and millions of people don’t even speak English as their primary language! Americans’ lack of foreign travel means accepting clichés about the rest of the world over the reality, creating a lack of worldliness and clouding many Americans’ views on everything from economics to sex and religion.
ENVIRONMENT (• Natural Resources • Wildlife • Climate)
> Climate News Network: Deep Concerns As Climate Impacts On Gulf Stream Flow (Tim Radford). Climate scientists have once again confirmed an alarming slowdown in the circulation of the Atlantic Ocean − the process that drives the current that warms Europe, and powers the planetary climate. And this time, they are prepared to say that the changes are recent − and may be linked to global warming.
> The New York Times: Winter Sets Global Heat Record Despite U.S. East’s Big Chill. Federal records show that this winter and the first two months of 2015 were the hottest on record globally, with a chilly U.S. East sticking out like a cold thumb in a toastier world.
> CASSE-The Daly News: A New Economy Will Help Save Rivers And Fisheries (Brent Blackwelder). Globalization and cheater economics have been destroying the world’s great rivers and their fisheries. Most people know about the devastation of rivers from water pollution, but not as many are aware of the significant impacts of big dams, river engineering, and real estate development.
MinnPost: From A Leading Climate-Science Journal, Calls To Communicate Better With The Public (Ron Meador). The journal Nature Climate Change devotes a fair portion of its new issue to a package of articles about the need for clearer synthesis and public communication of the IPCC’s work going forward, in hopes of improving an information flow it describes editorially (and generously) as “at times tense and problematic.”
True North: Gallup: Environmental Worries Losing Steam (Ed Morrissey). As the EPA keeps pushing forward with more and more regulatory interventions, such as the Clean Power Plan and their attempt to claim jurisdiction over intrastate emissions, Americans worry less and less about environmental issues. Gallup’s latest poll shows a slide in concern across the board from a year ago, and nearly a collapse over the last 15 years.
ENERGY (• Carbon Based • Renewable)
> Post Carbon Institute: Goldilocks Is Dead (Richard Heinberg). For oil, the Goldilocks zone has ceased to exist, portending staggering consequences throughout the economy for the foreseeable future. Since mid-2014, the oil price has declined by half, from $100 to $50 per barrel. Consumers are much happier but producers are wilting. The American petroleum industry has seen over 75,000 layoffs, the balance sheets of fracking companies are bleeding, and drilling rigs are being idled by the score.
> The Guardian: US Coal Sector In ‘Terminal Decline’ As Industry Loses 76% Of Its Value In Five Years (Karl Mathiesen). The US coal sector is in a “terminal decline” which has sent 26 companies bust in the last three years, according to financial analysts. A report by the Carbon Tracker Initiative found that in the past five years the US coal industry at least 264 mines were closed between 2011 and 2013. The world’s largest private coal company, Peabody Energy, lost 80% of its share price.
> Associated Press-Star Tribune: Oil Price Fall Forces North Dakota To Consider A Dose Of Financial Austerity (James McPherson) Two years ago, North Dakota was so flush with money from the energy boom that lawmakers spent over $1 million to spruce up the cafe at the state Capitol. Now, the fall in oil prices has tightened the revenue tap and the nation’s fastest-growing state is contemplating a dose of austerity.
ECONOMY (• Finances • Commerce • Global-Local)
> Peak Prosperity: Philip Haslam: When Money Destroys Nations. The global debt glut, plus the related money printing efforts by the world’s central banks to try to stimulate further credit growth at all costs, leads us to conclude that a major currency crisis — actually, multiple major currency crises — are practically inevitable at this point.
> NBR-CNBC: For Millions, 401(K) Plans Have Fallen Short (Kelley Holland). According to a recent report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, $18,433 is the median amount in a 401(k) savings account. Almost 40 percent of employees have less than $10,000, even as the proportion of companies offering alternatives like defined benefit pensions continues to drop. Not surprisingly, retirement is now Americans’ top financial worry, according to a recent Gallup poll.
> Insight Forum: The Puzzling Flattening Of Carbon Emissions And The Problem Of Global Growth (Kurt Cobb). There is another obvious and plausible explanation for the flat carbon emissions, namely, that the global economy did not grow by the stated percentage, that it may have grown only a fraction of that amount or not at all.
EQUITY (•Equality • Health • Political Power)
> Alternet: 5 Powerful Shifts Transforming The Future Of American Society Into Something Unrecognizable And Frightening (Tom Engelhardt). There are five areas in which at least the faint outlines of a new political system seem to be emerging: political campaigns and elections; the privatization of Washington through the marriage of the corporation and the state; the de-legitimization of our traditional system of governance; the empowerment of the national security state as an untouchable fourth branch of government; and the demobilization of “we the people.”
> Robert Reich: Why College Isn’t (And Shouldn’t Have To Be) For Everyone. America clings to the conceit that four years of college are necessary for everyone, and looks down its nose at people who don’t have college degrees. This has to stop. Young people need an alternative. That alternative should be a world-class system of vocational-technical education.
ENGAGEMENT (• Goals • Activism • Solutions)
> Yes! Magazine: This Activist Went To Prison For The Climate. Now He Wants Churches To Take Moral Leadership (Tim DeChristopher). Recently, there has been a growing discussion of climate change as a moral issue, both in academia and in religious communities. But there has not been nearly enough discussion about what it means to engage with this moral challenge. The first kind of engagement with the climate crisis is usually a change in consumer behavior, reducing one’s personal carbon footprint.
> MinnPost: Map: Which Minneapolis Neighborhoods Are Getting Organics Recycling First (Peter Callaghan). The map that every green-oriented resident of Minneapolis has been waiting for is out. [What other cities in the metro area are planning on initiating compost recycling?]
> Sustainable Food Systems: Agroecology: An Idea And Practice Coming Of Age (Rupert Dunn). Conference Declaration: “Agroecology is political; it requires us to challenge and transform structures of power in society. We need to put the control of seeds, biodiversity, land and territories, waters, knowledge, culture and the commons in the hands of the people who feed the world.”
> Energy Policy Forum: Rethink The Grid: Personal Power Stations (Deborah Lawrence). Rethinking the grid is quickly emerging as one of the hottest topics. The concept of our own personal power stations can be seductive…and just might save us a whole lot of money too.
EVENTS AND INFORMATION
> An Edina Dialogue: “Here Comes the Sun: Clean, Carbon-Free Energy Independence”, Weds., April 8, 6-9pm (6pm-Action Resource Fair; 7pm Program – Paul Douglas: Meteorologist and Entrepreneur & Erica Zweifel: Northfield Area Community Solar Co-Chair; 8:30pm Resource Fair and Networking, Edina High School (6754 Valley View Rd, Edina, MN 55439), Fick Auditorium (Enter Door No. 3). Info: http://edinamn.gov
> Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Monthly Meeting (First Saturday), April 4th, 10 a.m., JoJo’s Rise and Wine Cafe 12501 Nicollet Ave., Burnsville (Dakota County). Info: Deborah Nelson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> St. Catherine University: Rediscovering The Promised Land: Revitalizing Our Urban Communities. Speaker–Majora Carter (an urban revitalization strategy consultant), Thurs., April 9, 7 p.m., O’Shaughnessy auditorium, St. Paul. Free tickets (The O’Shaughnessy Box Office).
> Sierra Club: An Evening with the Cousteau Family (Topics: sustainability, conservation, stewardship & innovation), Thurs., May 7, 7:00 p.m., Beth El Synagogue, 5225 Barry Street West, Saint Louis Park, MN. Info: 952.873.7300.
> Midwest Solar: Midwest Solar Expo 2015, May 13-14, Hilton, Minneapolis. Info: Midwest Solar Expo 2015