SEF News-Views Digest No. 90 (5-13-15)
Did you miss receiving this newsletter over the past three weeks? With the overwhelming flood of information streaming through cyberspace, I suspect not. And I completely understand.
Bettye and I were traveling on a business-pleasure trip to Ohio that proved refreshing and pleasurable, including an opportunity to tour an amazing auto assembly plant. I realize manufacturing plants aren’t normally paragons of sustainability, but there is at least one exception.
Explanation: In researching for our next (and possibly last) automobile, principal criteria addressed such concerns as safety, economy, and comfort, along with attractive designing. The all-wheel-drive Subaru Outback fits all criteria, so on our recent driving trip to Ohio we took a 100-mile detour to Lafayette, Indiana, where we enjoyed taking a very informative guided tour of the impressive Subaru-In-Indiana (SIA) assembly plant.
In addition to modeling exemplary corporate citizenship—addressing such concerns as workers’ rights and safety issues in producing high-quality vehicles—this auto company also walks the talk when it comes to addressing environmental issues. For example, in 2004 SIA was the first U.S. auto plant to achieve a very impressive zero-landfill goal. By comprehensively focusing on reducing, reusing and recycling all used materials, SIA avoids disposing waste matter in landfills. Even floor sweepings (metal fragments, etc.) are recycled, in turn producing an extra $90,000 annual income for the company.
The company’s sustainability motto says it all: Sustainability is operating in a way that meets our current needs without compromising the needs of the future. For more information, check out the SIA website (http://www.subaru-sia.com/). If you ever have a chance to pass near Lafayette, I think you’ll enjoy taking a guided tour.
Footnote: Well, can you guess what happened after I penned the above glowing comments about the Subaru Outback? You guessed correctly. We scheduled a test drive at a local dealership, and four hours later we were the proud owners of a 2015 model. With concerns about creating greater resilience and sustainability, we managed to rationalize the purchase of what could be our last automobile. For certain, we’ll appreciate driving an automobile that’s safe, dependable, comfortable, economical, and, in some ways, environmentally friendly. [Disclaimer: We don’t get any kickbacks for promoting Subarus!]
ENLIGHTENMENT (• Expectations • Ideas • Beliefs • Psychology)
> The Archdruid Report: The Whisper Of The Shutoff Valve (John Michael Greer). In Detroit and Baltimore, tens of thousands of residents are in the process of losing their access to water and electricity. The situation in both cities is much the same, and there’s every reason to think that identical headlines will shortly appear in reference to other cities around the nation.
> Resource Insights: Terms Of Debate: Destroying vs Altering Nature, The Fragile vs The Resilient Earth (Kurt Cobb). Under my assumption humans are embedded in the natural world. They are not the sole actors or agents in it, only one of countless actors, most of which we probably know nothing about. We cannot get one up on nature. We can only cooperate with its workings.
> Minnesota Daily: Earth-Based Religions Attract Followers (Allison Kronberg). Earth-based religions are becoming more popular and could someday become a dominant worldview as climate change and overpopulation threaten the environment, said Bron Taylor, a University of Florida religion, nature, and environmental ethics professor.
> Weathering the Storm: Geopolitical Forces (Mike Conley). Tectonic-sized geopolitical forces are changing the global landscape and accelerating the progression of the perfect storm. Operating under obsolete and faulty assumptions of yesteryear, we are hurling toward a new global paradigm we don’t understand – and floundering in the process. In this provocative interview, R. Michael Conley provides a contrarian view on how this global drama is playing out from a perfect storm perspective.
ENVIRONMENT (• Natural Resources • Wildlife • Climate)
>Washington Post: 2015 The ‘Last Effective Opportunity’ To Safely Limit Warming, Says Vatican Conference Statement (Chris Mooney). For now, the conference statement declares that “Human-induced climate change is a scientific reality, and its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity.” Also, it points very directly at an unfolding international process for addressing climate change, suggesting that this process must succeed — at the end of this year.
> The Washington Post: Climate Change Alert: Global Carbon Dioxide Tops 400 For The First Time. (Justin Wm. Moyer). The first time an atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration of above 400 parts per million was measured was in the Arctic in 2012, and it was reached at the NOAA’s Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii in 2013. Now NOAA reports the monthly global average concentration of the greenhouse gas has surpassed 400 parts per million for the first time. The last time it happened was up to 5 million years ago.
> Los Angeles Times: One In Six Species Could Be Wiped Out By Climate Change, Study Says (Karen Kaplan). If present trends continue, the Earth’s temperature will wind up 4.3 degrees Celsius higher than it was before the onset of the industrial era. Should that scenario come to pass, as many as 16% of species around the world would be at risk of dying out, the study says, and humans will feel the effects, as ecosystems become imbalanced.
> Common Dreams: Food, Farming And Climate Change: It’s Bigger Than Everything Else (Ryan Zinn). Record-breaking heat waves, long-term drought, “100-year floods” in consecutive years, and increasingly extreme super-storms are becoming the new normal. The planet is now facing an unprecedented era of accelerating and intensifying global climate change, with negative impacts already being widely felt, but the greatest impact affects farmers and anyone who eats food.
> The Guardian: Lester Brown: ‘Vast Dust Bowls Threaten Tens Of Millions With Hunger’ (Suzanne Goldenberg). Over his 50-year career, Lester Brown has become known for his accurate global environmental predictions. As he enters retirement, he warns the world may face the worst hunger crisis of our lifetimes. See a 4-minute video.
ENERGY (• Carbon Based • Renewable)
> Peak Oil: Why The World’s Appetite For Oil Will Peak Soon (Amy Jaffe). The result is as startling as it is world changing: Global oil demand will peak within the next two decades. The geopolitical and economic implications of peaking demand will be huge.
> The Ecologist:‘ Beyond Petroleum’ – Fracking’s Collapse Heralds The Arrival Of Peak Oil (Paul Mobbs). Take out high-cost ‘unconventional’ oil and production peaked ten years ago, and even North America’s fracking and tar sands boom has failed to open up new resources both big enough to make good the shortfall, and cheap enough to reward investors. We really do need to be thinking ‘beyond petroleum’.
> Reuters: Small Town Evacuated After Oil Train Derails In North Dakota. A BNSF train carrying crude oil derailed and caught fire in North Dakota on Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of a nearby small town just days after the United States and Canada announced reforms to improve the safety of such shipments.
ECONOMY (• Finances • Commerce • Global-Local)
> Resilience: A De-Growth Response To An Eco-Modernist Manifesto (Jeremy Caradonna, et al). From a de-growth perspective, technology is not viewed as a magical savior since many technologies actually accelerate environmental decline.
> Transition Network: The 8 Paradigm Shifts At The Heart Of REconomy (Rob Hopkins). For the next two months here we will be talking REconomy, looking in depth at this aspect of Transition, which is about creating new enterprises, new economies, new livelihoods. Central to it is the idea that WE can do this, that creating the new economy that better meets our needs starts with us, here, now.
CASSE-The Daly News: A Thirst for Economic Change? (Erik Alm). The idea that a water shortage like the one California is currently facing could cool the economic engines that have elevated the state to the eighth-largest economy in the world has been discussed in local media and state government offices alike. The New York Times questions if the aspiration of untrammeled growth that has for so long been this state’s driving engine has run against the limits of nature.
> Yes! Magazine: One In Four Local Banks Has Vanished Since 2008. Why We Should Treat It As A National Crisis (Gregg Robb). Over the last seven years, one of every four community banks has disappeared. We have 1,971 fewer of these small, local financial institutions today than at the beginning of 2008. Some 500 failed outright, with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) stepping in to pay their depositors. Most of the rest were acquired and absorbed into bigger banks.
> Market Pulse: First-Quarter GDP Was Likely Negative, Economists Say. Estimates varied but economist forecasts for the first quarter ranged from zero to negative 0.4%. See also: Almighty Dollar Helps Bring Economy To Its Knees In Early 2015.
EQUITY (• Equality • Health • Social Concerns • Political Power)
> Resilience: Resilience Reflections With Adrian Ayres Fisher. “What gives me hope is meeting and reading or hearing about all the people all over the world from so many cultures who are working in so many ways to help ecosystems recover, to discover and implement new/old, low carbon ways of life, to help make cities sustainable, to engage in regenerative farming and ranching, work for social justice and peace—the list goes on and on”.
> Common Dreams: Refugee Numbers Break New Record With ‘Millions Trapped In Conflict Zones’ (Sarah Lazare). As wars raged in 2014, an estimated 38 million people across the world were “forced to flee their homes by conflict and violence,” setting a new record high for internal displacement, according to just-released figures compiled by the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC).
> Shareable: 10 Lessons From Kenya’s Remarkable Cooperatives (Nathan Schneider). For many people concerned about inequality in the United States, cooperatives represent a beacon of hope. By replacing big banks with credit unions, and precarious workplaces with worker-owned ones, we might someday do away with the worst ravages of capitalism. What would it take to make cooperatives truly transformative?
ENGAGEMENT (• Goals • Activism • Solutions)
> Post Carbon Institute: A Resilient Society (Richard Heinberg). This video is the fourth in a four-part series by Richard Heinberg and Post Carbon Institute. The themes covered in these videos are much more thoroughly explored in Heinberg’s latest book, Afterburn: Society Beyond Fossil Fuels. (View the entire series here.)
> Resilience: Little Town On The Prairie Steps It Up (Jay Walljasper). Albert Lea, Minnesota shows how walking and other healthy habits can rejuvenate a rural community.
> MPR: ‘Eco-Village’ To Replace Symbol Of Neglect On Lake Street, Hiawatha (Jon Collins). Hennepin County is expected to close next month on the 6.5-acre site that will eventually be home to what developers are calling an “eco-village.” It will include 100,000 square feet of county social service offices, about 16,000 square feet of retail space and up to 565 housing units — all built around an outdoor public market close to a busy light rail stop.
> Resilience: Film Review “Seeing The Forest” (David Bollier). Alan Honick’s understated, well-made film makes a powerful point about the potential of open collaboration. Instead of relying on the standard regime of bureaucratic process driven by congressional politics, industry lobbying and divisive public posturing, the various stakeholders in the region formed a “watershed council” to manage the Siuslaw National Forest in the Washington Cascades.
> On Earth: Energy Vampires Account for a Quarter of Home-Energy Use. Who Can Save Us? (Brian Palmer). A new NRDC study (disclosure) shows that “idle load electricity”—computers in sleep mode, digital video recorders, even certain kinds of electrical outlets—account for 23 percent of power consumption in the average household and represent roughly about a quarter of your electricity bill, paid for no good reason.
EVENTS AND INFORMATION
> Midwest Solar: Midwest Solar Expo 2015, May 13-14, Hilton, Minneapolis. Info: Midwest Solar Expo 2015
> CERTS: News Alert: Made In Minnesota Solar Thermal Rebate Now Available To Entire State. The Minnesota Department of Commerce announced that it will offer rebates for solar thermal systems statewide as part of its Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program. Info: MiM update & project ideas >>
> Sierra Club/350.org: Tar Sands Resistance March, Sat., June 6, noon – 4 p.m. (Starting at Lambert Landing, Corner of Shepard Road and N. Sibley Street, St. Paul, MN 55102 [Map], Ending at the State Capitol Lawn, 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, St. Paul) [Map] RSVP: Sign up