SEF News-Views Digest No. 93 (6-17-15)
Liberals, or progressive-minded folk, typically can’t imagine themselves as fundamentalists. Most people assume that only conservative, right-wingers may be considered fundamentalists. Wrong!
Progressives—agnostics, atheists, humanists, secularists, and the like—tend to think of themselves as open-minded, free thinkers. Yet, according to a definition proposed by Robert Jansen in an article located in the Enlightenment section, practically everyone exhibits some degree of fundamentalism. His definition:
“Moving beyond the religious roots of the term, we can understand fundamentalism as any intellectual, political, or moral position that asserts a certainty in the truth and/or righteousness of a belief system. In that sense, the United States is an especially fundamentalist country”.
Jansen raises this issue in relation to the news media and specifically to journalists, most of whom profess to be unbiased and fair minded when reporting or commenting on controversial issues. But the lesson here is that fundamentalism takes many forms, that in fact, no one is immune to fundamentalism.
Two additional articles of intellectual interest, both also included in the Enlightenment section, round out John Michael Greer’s summary of the five phases involved in any social system’s collapse. Based on Greer’s five phases, it seems that the U.S.—along with other developed countries—is currently experiencing: (1) the outgoing fringe of an era of pretense; (2) the challenges associated with an era of impact; and (3) the pressing need to find appropriate solutions in an era of response. The era of breakdown (4) could become a reality in the next few decades (some experts think it’s already started), and the era of dissolution (5) may lie on the distant horizon, occurring in future decades or even centuries.
In confronting major crises, the conventional, off-repeated mantra—“It’s different this time!”—has resounded in all historical empires, each having been relegated to the dustbins of antiquity. As expected, today many economic and technological gurus, especially those who are unable or reluctant to believe there are actual limits to growth, continue to enthusiastically sound this worn-out mantra.
Ironically, in one significant way it really is different this time. After all, humans have never before faced such a interconnected series of grave converging crises. Driven largely by overpopulation and overconsumption of resources, climate change alone has the potential to spell humanity’s undoing. But why worry? Someone, somewhere will save us from our ignorance and short sightedness. Maybe.
We Americans cannot imagine the collapse of our “exceptional” society, but if history has anything to teach us, at some future point it will likely happen. So, realistically and practically speaking, we might as well acknowledge such a dreadful prospect, and begin focusing our creative energies towards seeking a more resilient, sustainable future existence. Thankfully, a progressive worldwide citizens’ movement is gaining momentum, and laying the groundwork for positive changes in all aspects of life on this precious, one-of-a-kind planet.
For a deeper understanding of these topics, I urge you to read the first three articles that follow.
ENLIGHTENMENT (• Expectations • Ideas • Beliefs • Psychology)
> Resilience: American Journalism’s Ideology: Why The “Liberal” Media Is Fundamentalist (Robert Jansen). There are three key elements to the dominant ideology of the contemporary United States—involving world affairs, economics, and ecology—which can be best understood as forms of fundamentalism. Moving beyond the religious roots of the term, we can understand fundamentalism as any intellectual, political, or moral position that asserts a certainty in the truth and/or righteousness of a belief system. In that sense, the United States is an especially fundamentalist country.
> The Archdruid Report: The Era Of Breakdown (John Michael Greer). The fourth phase of five phases of the collapse process we’ve been discussing here in recent posts is the era of breakdown. (For those that haven’t been keeping track, the first three are the eras of pretense, impact, and response). The final phase is The Era Of Dissolution.
> Climate and Capitalism: Does Anthropocene Science Blame All Humanity? (Ian Angus). The charge that Anthropocene scholars blame all of humanity for the actions of a small minority simply doesn’t hold water. Eco-socialists need to be positive contributors to Anthropocene discussions, not critics sniping from the sidelines.
> Resilience: Are We Prepared To Change To Prevent Climate Change? (Christiana Kliemann). There are robust arguments hardly ever questioned—following the logic of homo economicus —that individual profit and competition are the best means to achieve the higher common good. But what if this system logic itself was the root cause of our environmental and social crises—climate change above all—and needed to be replaced by something new to secure our survival on this planet?
ENVIRONMENT (• Natural Resources • Wildlife • Climate)
> ENSIA: Envision 2050: The Future Of Oceans (Mary Hoff). For this fourth installment of Envision 2050 series (read the first three here), Ensia asked seven individuals with special connections to the ocean to share their hopes for the world’s oceans — and what it would take to achieve them.
> Yale- e360: Oil Drilling In Arctic Ocean: A Push Into Unchartered Waters (Ed Struzik). As the U.S. and Russia take the first steps to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean, experts say the harsh climate, icy seas, and lack of infrastructure means a sizeable oil spill would be very difficult to clean up and could cause extensive environmental damage.
> LA Times: EPA Report Finds Fracking Poses Risks To Drinking Water (William Yardley). Hydraulic fracturing, which has transformed the U.S. into an international leader in oil and gas production but stirred deep concerns about its risks to the environment, has not caused “systemic” damage to drinking water but does pose risks, the federal government concluded Thursday after a detailed, four-year review of the controversial drilling method.
> Climate News Network: Earth Has Warmed As Usual, With No Slowdown (Tim Radford). US scientists re-examine the collection of data, which seemed to show global warming slowing since 1998 and say temperatures have continued to rise steadily. So forget about the so-called “hiatus” in global warming. The planet’s average temperatures are notching up as swiftly now as they did 20 or 30 years ago.
> Climate Progress: From Multi-Year Drought To Flash Flooding: ‘Weather Whiplash Explained’ (Joe Romm). There are two key, related reasons for increased weather whiplash. First, the normal climate for much of the U.S will become moderate to severe drought, in tandem with a warming-driven moister atmosphere that’s already delivering more and more of the rainfall in the form of deluges. Second, extreme weather — especially droughts and deluges — are becoming longer and stronger because of changes in our atmosphere that cause weather patterns to get “stuck.”
ENERGY (• Carbon Based • Renewable)
> Oil Price: Why EIA, IEA, And BP Oil Forecasts Are Too High (Gail Tverberg). EIA, IEA, and BP forecasts miss the issue of low prices, and what they do to the possibility of future oil production. Companies really need to have enough funds on a cash flow basis, and on this basis they seem to need about $130 per barrel now, and more later. The likelihood of getting prices up to this high level seems very low.
> Common Dreams: Renewable Energy Will Not Support Economic Growth (Richard Heinberg). Can we transition to these renewable energy sources and continue using energy the way we do today? And can we maintain our growth-based consumer economy? The answer to both questions is, probably not. In short, there are far more challenges associated with the energy transition than opportunities. Of equal importance to transitioning will be our deliberate transformation of the ways we use energy.
> Resource Insights: Delayed Gratification For OPEC, More Pain For Investors (Kurt Cobb). Why OPEC members chose to leave their oil output unchanged is no mystery. The explicit purpose for keeping oil prices depressed is to close down U.S. oil production from deep shale deposits–production that soared when oil hovered around $100 a barrel, but which is largely uneconomic at current prices. That production was starting to threaten OPEC’s market share.
> New Economics Foundation: Energy Round-Up: Tectonic Shifts (Simon Osborn). This week the latest edition of the BP Statistical Review of World Energy noted two important trends (1) Renewables are still the fastest growing source of global energy, and (2) Global greenhouse gas emissions growth has slowed to 0.5%
ECONOMY (• Finances • Commerce • Global-Local)
> CASSE-The Daly News: The Future History Of Political Economy – Part 2 (Eric Zency). Ecological Economics represents the extension into economics of the thermodynamic revolution of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In physics, that revolution dethroned Newton and brought relativity. In biology, it was midwife to the birth of ecology, the study of ecosystems as wholes in which energy networks—food webs—are a defining structure. See also: The Future History Of Political Economy – Part 1 (Economics Ignores Thermodynamics).
> Think Progress: New Report Shows EPA’s Proposed Carbon Regulations Will Create Tens Of Thousands Of Jobs (Samantha Page). By 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan will create nearly 100,000 more jobs than are lost, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank.
> The Week: The Dismal State Of U.S. Bridges (Laura Colarusso & Sarah Turbin). This info-graphic provides a statistical overview of the nation’s bridges. Of 610,000 bridges, 61,000 are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, yet they are still in use. The average bridge age is 42 years, and it could cost up to 115 billion dollars to fix all of them.
> Peak Prosperity: The War On Cash: Officially Sanctioned Theft (Charles Hugh Smith). A “war on cash” means that governments are limiting the use of cash and a variety of official-mouthpiece economists are calling for the outright abolition of cash. Authorities are both restricting the amount of cash that can be withdrawn from banks, and limiting what can be purchased with cash. These limits are broadly called capital controls.
EQUITY (• Equality • Health • Social Concerns • Political Power)
> Environment America: Dangerous Inheritance: The Hotter, More Extreme Climate That We’re Passing Down To America’s Young (EA Research-Policy Ctr.). Young Americans today are growing up in a different climate than their parents and grandparents experienced. It’s warmer, storms pack more of a punch, rising seas increasingly flood low-lying land, and large wildfires have grown bigger, more frequent and more expensive to control. Everywhere, people are noticing changes.
> Common Dreams: ‘From The Ground Up’: A National Plan For Better Policing And Racial Justice (Deirdre Fulton). Building Momentum from the Ground Up: A Toolkit for Promoting Justice in Policing, was released Wednesday by the advocacy organizations PolicyLink and the Center for Popular Democracy, both of which work to advance racial and economic justice through grassroots organizing and progressive policy campaigns. A companion Justice in Policing website will launch on Friday.
> Resilience: Resilience Roundup – June 12 (Staff). Here’s a potpourri of current news and views about a variety of relevant issues in creating societal resilience and sustainability.
> Feasta: Basic Income (BI) & Intentional Currencies (Graham Barnes). This article looks at the rationale for BI and at implications for currencies that incorporate BI as one of their currency issuance mechanisms. Studies show that egalitarian distributions tend to increase productivity, especially in tasks requiring co-operation – and the bootstrapping-into-existence of a new currency certainly falls into that category.
ENGAGEMENT (• Goals • Activism • Solutions)
> Yes! Magazine: Can We Save Our Planet? What The Climate Movement Can Learn From The Nuclear Freeze Campaign (Duncan Meisel). The Nuclear Freeze Campaign of the 1980s saved the world from nuclear war. Here’s what today’s climate activists can learn from its success.
> Midwest Energy News: Program Helps Small Companies Find Big Energy Savings (Frank Jossi). Sponsored by Xcel Energy, the program requires the installation of a pulse-based meter, which provides energy data to web-based energy tracking system from PowerTakeOff. The idea behind the program, and others like it is to engage customers through technology to encourage energy efficiency — and create behavioral change. Opower for residences encourages energy conservation.
> MPR: Programs Give Farmers Incentive To Create Bee Habitat (Dan Gunderson). Various U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs pay farmers to plant a mix of perennial native flowers and grasses to help support the bee population. According to USDA officials, there are currently 72 pollinator habitat contracts in 33 counties, resulting in 750 acres of Minnesota land planted with native flowering species. That’s just over a square mile of land.
> Dirt Craft: Earthen Floors: Why, How & Where (Ashley Lubyk). Today’s earthen floor is carefully crafted with special attention given to the final surface, then impregnated with a blend of oils and waxes that impart durability, abrasion resistance, yielding a smooth and luxurious surface. It’s the kind of floor that draws people, especially conventional contractors, to their knees to gain a closer look.
EVENTS AND INFORMATION
> 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. Open to all!
> The Generator: The John James Newsletter 64 (John James). This one-person newsletter contains broad coverage of news and views related to sustainability issues. Check it out.