SEF News-Views Digest No. 92 (5-27-15)
I’m extremely grateful to the few readers who have written to express appreciation for this newsletter’s overall content, and especially thankful to those who have graciously offered constructive feedback. It’s good to know someone out there is reading it.
Feedback: Some readers have voiced concern about the overwhelming amount of material included, with the explanation that reading so many articles requires too much time. I certainly empathize with this perspective. In dealing with a flood of daily newsletters and requests from sustainability-oriented organizations, I spend several hours weekly scanning and reading incoming email. But, like most readers, I’ve learned how to scan materials quickly in seeking relevant, worthwhile information.
Rationale: As this newsletter’s title indicates, it is a digest of both news and views about a broad spectrum of sustainability issues. A digest may be defined as a “breaking down” of some entity into a systematic pattern of organization, typically by means of abridging, summarizing, and processing.
Strategies: In preparing each issue, I daily scan and “digest” numerous article titles that arrive via email newsletters, in addition to researching reputable online websites. Throughout the information-gathering process, I select appropriate articles to include in the upcoming newsletter. Self-imposed guidelines are based on creating a balanced format, by: selecting suitable articles for each of the six sections; providing both positive and negative news and views; and including both objective news and subjective views.
Suggestions: It might help to think of reading the newsletter as somewhat analogous to dining in a cafeteria that provides offerings divided into principal sections composed of various types of food and drink (article sections), and subsets consisting of specific dishes (articles) from which to select a satisfying meal (information). So, a helpful process in reading this newsletter might include three steps: scan, pick, and read. Although it’s ideal to clean one’s plate, when dining, this analogy is not easily transferable when applied to reading a newsletter. However, scanning all available dishes (article titles), tasting a few enticing ones (reading article descriptions), and delving into a favorite dish (article) seems like a viable approach.
OK, enough analogizing. I’m sure you understand my rationale. In sum, the simplest approach is to at least scan article titles to obtain an overview of news and views (1-2 minutes). Better yet to read all article descriptions (10-plus minutes). And best of all, read article descriptions, plus scanning or reading in full a few interesting articles (15-20 minutes). Finally, please don’t overlook my commentary, which can be scanned or read word for word (3-5 minutes). I try not to be too wordy, but sometimes get carried away.
Now that you’re better prepared to take advantage of this newsletter, please give it a lookover—or a more complete reading, whichever suits your interest, time, and temperament.
P.S. We’ll be traveling for two weeks, so the next newsletter will be June 17th. Don’t hold your breath!
ENLIGHTENMENT (• Expectations • Ideas • Beliefs • Psychology)
> The Archdruid Report: The Era of Impact (John Michael Greer). The era of impact [the second of the five stages of collapse] is the point at which it becomes clear to most people that something has gone wrong with the most basic narratives of a society—not just a little bit wrong, in the sort of way that requires a little tinkering here and there, but really, massively, spectacularly wrong.
> Peak Oil: Hijacking The Anthropocene (Ian Angus). What can lobbyists do when science contradicts their political messages? Some simply deny the science, as many conservatives do with climate change. Others pretend to embrace the science, while ignoring or purging the disagreeable content. That’s what the Breakthrough Institute (BTI) is doing with one of the most widely discussed issues in 21st-century science, the proposal to define a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene.
> Resilience: The Fifth Wave: Part 2 (Courtney White). [This the second of two parts. Read part 1 here.] This very informative article relates the history of environmentalism in America, according to waves that have appeared over time. It provides deep insights, along with a broad overview, of all movements up to the present day.
ENVIRONMENT (• Natural Resources • Wildlife • Climate)
> Star Tribune: Commentary: Urban Farming In New Brighton: The Great Chicken Divide (Julia Yurista Stephens). Whether or not live chickens should continue to be allowed in homeowners’ back yards in the Twin Cities suburb of New Brighton is a debate that has erupted over the last few years and has reached the boiling point. Arguments, facts, falsehoods and opinions have been lobbed back and forth from both oppositional camps.
> New York Times-Star Tribune: Obama Casts Climate Change As ‘Immediate Risk’ (Julie Hirschfeld Davis). Obama, in a commencement address recently at the Coast Guard Academy, repeated arguments he cites often to promote his climate change effort, including a litany of grim facts and figures about rising temperatures, swelling seas and vanishing sea ice, dismissing skeptics of the phenomenon or those who refuse to act on it as guilty of “dereliction of duty.”
> NRDC: How Long Could Humanity Survive Without Bees? (Brian Palmer). A U.S. Department of Agriculture report found that honeybee losses in managed colonies hit 42 percent this year. if honeybees did disappear for good, humans would probably not go extinct (at least not solely for that reason). But our diets would still suffer tremendously. The variety of foods available would diminish, and the cost of certain products would surge.
> Yahoo News: Water Level In Lake Mead, Largest Reservoir In The US, Drops 150 Feet In 14 Years (Justin Sullivan). Several of the lake’s marinas have either relocated or closed, leaving boat docks boats sitting on dry, cracked earth. A hotel near the lake has been abandoned, its empty swimming pool looking over the dry lakebed. High winds kick up mini dust storms on the barren Boulder Beach and a fine dust covers cars driving down dirt roads that were once underwater.
> Climate Progress: 2015 Is Crushing It For Hottest Year On Record (Joe Romm). It’s looking more and more like 2015 will crush previous global temperature records. May has already started out hot and is likely to be a record breaker itself. NOAA recently predicted that there’s “a greater than 80 percent chance” the current El Niño lasts all year. El Niños generally lead to global temperature records, as the short-term El Niño warming adds to the underlying long-term global warming trend.
ENERGY (• Carbon Based • Renewable)
> Resilience: Peak Oil Notes – May 22 (Tom Whipple). The overall picture is still believed to be one of oversupply by 1–2 million b/d, which should keep a lid on prices for a while. Reuters published an interesting report this week noting just how bad the world’s oil supply and demand numbers really are. In the rest of the world the numbers are worse to nonexistent.
> NRDC: Santa Barbara Oil Spill Shows Our Pipeline Safety System Is Broken. Since 1995, more than 5,600 “significant” pipeline incidents have caused nearly 1,400 injuries, killed an average of 18 people each year, and cost almost $7 billion in damages in places from Kalamazoo, Michigan, to Mayflower, Arkansas. There’s a better way: stronger safeguards, cleaner energy, electric vehicles, and increased efficiency.
> Post Carbon Institute: The IMF Tells A Half-Truth (Richard Heinberg). The International Monetary Fund evidently wants policy makers to think fossil fuels are harmful and costly. Good: that’s true, and it’s helpful to know. It would be even better if this prestigious economic organization were to admit that eliminating the local pollution and global climate impacts of our current energy regime will require policy makers to do the very thing they least want to do: curtail and reverse economic growth.
> Resilience: Renewable Energy: Is That Where Salvation Lies? (Roger Blanchard). A problem with expecting renewable energy to be the solution for global warming is that it gives people the impression that it’s not necessary to actually cut back on energy use. That is because the energy will come from renewable sources at some point in the near future, or at least that is the promise.
> Oil Price: Clock Running Out For Struggling Oil Companies (Charles Kennedy). Low oil prices are endangering an increasing number of exploration and production companies. Even worse is the fact that there is no certainty that oil prices will rise. Goldman Sachs just predicted that oil prices will fall once again to $45 per barrel. High levels of crude oil inventories and only a slight fall in production thus far likely mean that the glut will persist.
ECONOMY (• Finances • Commerce • Global-Local)
> Peak Prosperity: 4 Factors Signaling Volatility Will Return With A Vengeance (Naomi Prins). The unprecedented nature of this international effort has provided an illusion of stability, albeit reliant on artificial stimulus to the private sector in the form of cheap money, tempered currency rates (except the dollar – so far) and multi-trillion dollar bond buying programs. It is the most expensive, blatant aid for major financial players ever conceived and executed. But the facade is fading. Even those sustaining this madness, like the IMF, are issuing warnings about increasing volatility.
> Peak Prosperity: Dan Ariely: Why The Next Market Downturn May Quickly Become A Full-Blown Panic (Adam Taggart; podcast & script). Behavioral science shows we are our own worst enemies in this story. It’s our human wiring, our proclivity for seeing things as we want them to be rather than as they truly are, that makes us vulnerable to influences we often aren’t even conscious of. And the bad decisions — and bad outcomes – ensue, caused by conflicts of interest and trust.
> ENSIA: Putting The World’s Challenges At The Heart Of Business (Paul Polman). For too long business has sat on the sidelines, either unable or unwilling to be part of the solution to these systemic challenges. But this is now rapidly changing as the limitations of governments and international bodies to resolve them become ever more apparent, as consumers increasingly are demanding change, and as the cost of inaction starts to exceed the cost of action.
> Resource Insights: Is The Slowdown In Productivity A Result Of Energy Costs (Kurt Cobb). Research findings suggest that fuel costs, fuel quality and fuel availability can be limiting factors in productivity across the economy. The idea that energy inputs used in production are central to productivity isn’t so counterintuitive after all. And yet, in a sampling of recent coverage of the productivity issue, not one piece mentioned energy. (See here, here, here and here.)
> CASSE-The Daly News: Progress Toward A True-Cost Economy Now Comes From Developments In Renewable Energy (Brent Blackwelder). A renewable energy revolution is sweeping the planet. This revolution has profound implications because it signals that the global economy is moving to stop the growth of our human carbon footprint.
EQUITY (• Equality • Health • Social Concerns • Political Power)
> Peak Prosperity: The Self-Employed Middle Class Hardly Exists Anymore (Charles Hughes Smith). Why owning your own income is more important than ever now. Of course, the easiest path to financial independence is being born into a wealthy, well-connected family. But since few of us win that born-rich lottery, this article addresses the important question: How do “the rest of us” carve out financial independence?
> Star Tribune: The American Dream? Now, It’s Just About Holding On (Lee Schafer). John Archer, U of MN professor, suggests it would be helpful if the people who want to debate what the American dream means would acknowledge the structural changes in the economy since the 1950s, what he thinks may be been the heyday of the traditional American dream, a vision that was based on luck and hard work. Now, there’s a fear going backward, which is much worse than Americans merely losing faith in the dreams of their parents and grandparents.
> Market Watch: Half Of College Graduates Expect To Be Supported By Their Families (Quentin Fottrell). The effective unemployment rate for 18 to 29 year-olds, which adjusts for labor-force participation by including those who have given up looking for work, was 13.8% in April. Both students and their parents are more accepting of cohabiting, which has become the new norm.
> Resilience: Arguments Against GMOs (Mary Odom). This article presents macroscopic arguments against GMOS, including the impact of peak oil production on the current developed countries’ system of industrial agriculture, the rapidly expanding pesticide treadmill that accompanies GMOs, replacement of natural biodiversity, water and soil loss or degradation, and expanding corporate domination, with increasing social inequity, loss of small farmers, monopolization and unsustainability of our food system, and the potential link between gut health and inadequately studied GMOs. See Also: The Economic Argument Against GMOs.
ENGAGEMENT (• Goals • Activism • Solutions)
> ENSIA: We Know What Sustainable Development Should Look Like-Now Let’s Do It (Felix Dodds). By the end of 2015, governments will have agreed upon the direction for the Sustainable Development Goals. The job for the rest of us is to hold them accountable to what they have agreed and recognize that we all play our role in delivering this agenda. The path to a just, fair, equitable and sustainable world is within our grasp, but only if we work together — and work quickly — to make it a reality.
> Resilience: Gambiarra: Repair Culture (Felipe Fonseca). MetaReciclagem, a Brazil group, is moving away from the “maker culture” to the “repair culture”, which focuses on finding a better way to define a culture of reuse, repair and re-purposing. The physical act of mending things in order to extend their lifetime or else turning them into something else of use is a core value, in opposition to maker culture, which is addicted to novelty, and becoming consequently toxic, unsustainable, superficial and alienating.
> Resilience: Living Big In A Tiny House – The Transforming Castle-House Truck (Andrew Martin). While the trend over the last decade has been for larger homes, the tiny house movement is becoming popular among those wishing to be more sustainable and wanting to live simpler less consumerist lifestyles. The small house movement is about reducing the overall size of dwellings to less than 1,000 square feet or approximately 93 square meters. [Be sure to watch the video!]
> Sustainable Food Trust: Human Manure: Closing The Nutrient Loop (Rachel Dring). Using human urine and feces as fertilizer may seem an unappetizing concept but it’s been common practice for centuries. In the sewage systems of today, which deal with millions of tons of domestic waste and industrial effluent, this human fertilizer comes in the form of treated sewage sludge.
> Collective Evolution: France Declares All New Rooftops Must Be Topped With Plants Or Solar Panels (Alanna Ketler). Green roofs, as they are called, have an isolating effect, which helps to reduce the amount of energy needed to heat a building during the winter or cool it in the summer. They are capable of retaining rainwater and reducing problems with runoff, and also offer birds a place to call home in the urban jungle.
EVENTS AND INFORMATION
> 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
> Citizens for Sustainability: Discussion And Planning Meeting, Sat., June 27, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., St. Anthony Village City Hall Council Chambers, 3301 Silver Lake Road.
> MetroCERTS: Made In Minnesota Solar Thermal Rebates Available Across The State. The Minnesota Department of Commerce will offer rebates to residents, businesses, nonprofits, and government entities as part of its Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program. Learn more about solar thermal rebates & applications >>