SEF No. 102 (4 U)
Here’s an appropriate metaphor for illustrating our relationship with the planet: the earth’s battery is slowly running out of energy. Millions of years of stored sunlight—in the form of fossil-based carbon—are rapidly depleting, thanks to humanity’s enormous hunger for accumulating excessive stuff, depending on work-saving devices and services, and enjoying experiential opportunities. The first article in Views—“The Earth’s Battery is Running Low” by Andrew Nikiforuk—explains this metaphor, so I’ll not elaborate further.
The second article in Views explains the derivation and meaning of Earth Overshoot Day, reinforcing the metaphor of our planet’s energy-draining battery. On a positive note, the article discusses the advantages of an emerging Not For Profit (NFP) economy. Any post-growth NFP economy will need to be generative rather than extractive in order to reduce humanity’s oversized ecological footprint, with all profits used to advance social and/or environmental missions. The NFP economy is the focus of Jen Hinton’s and Donnie Maclurcan’s upcoming book ‘How on Earth: Flourishing in a Not-for-Profit World by 2050’.
The third article in Views—“The War Against Change”, by John Michael Greer—is related to the aforementioned articles themewise. Greer proposes that the basic character of the two principal U.S. political parties has flipped during the past five decades, with Democrats gradually becoming conservatives and Republicans transforming into progressives. Although this educated opinion may at first raise eyebrows, I think his explanations have merit. His overall concept is based on the reality that people tend to avoid serious challenges that require significant changes in existing or desired lifestyles.
In the News section you’ll find a variety of interesting articles, among them “World Population Will Nearly Double By 2100”, which reinforces the theme of earth’s energy battery running low due to ecological overshoot. Although most people avoid discussing overpopulation, deep within our minds, if not within our hearts, we sense that increasing numbers of people are creating ever more hardships for humanity, by placing inordinate demands on nature’s bounty.
In the Solutions section, you’ll discover practical information about how some eco-minded people are living more sustainably. Of special interest are two articles about yard farming, one providing 8 reasons for establishing home and community gardens, preferably on some of the estimated 40 million acres of grassy U.S. lawns. Another article explains how Los Angeles is becoming a major center for city-based farming. Also, an informative article featuring the virtues of a zero energy-use home is very inspiring. Any ideas for creating greater resilience and sustainability are very welcome. I only wish I were younger and more able to undertake these types of eco-oriented projects. —— Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher
> The Tyee: The Earth’s Battery Is Running Low (Andrew Nikiforuk). Some 12,000 years ago, hunter-gathers lived in equilibrium: they rarely took more from the battery than its trickle charge rate. But due to technology, city-making and population growth, human activities are rapidly draining the battery through forest removal and fossil fuel use. So 10,000 years of unremitting population growth, frivolous energy spending and economic growth have now met the reality: “Unless biomass stores stabilize, human civilization is unsustainable.” Surprisingly, the metaphor also defines the nature of the spiritual crisis now confronting every living being.
> Resilience (Post Growth Institute): Earth Overshoot Day And Not-For-Profit Enterprise (Tegan Tallulah). In 2015, August 13th is Earth Overshoot Day. The day marks the estimated calendar date when humanity’s demand on the planet’s ecological services (which produce renewable resources and assimilate wastes) outstrips what the Earth can supply. This means that for the rest of the year, we are taking more than is regenerated, operating in Overshoot. Last year, Earth Overshoot Day was August 19th. We first went into Overshoot in the late 1970s, and since then the day has crept ever earlier on the calendar. This means we are using the ecological resources of just over 1.5 Earths. Projection: Overshoot Day 2030 will arrive on June 28th!
> The Archdruid Report: The War Against Change (John Michael Greer). For the last forty years, mind you, America has been moving steadily along an easily defined trajectory. We’ve moved step by step toward more political and economic inequality, more political corruption, more impoverishment for those outside the narrowing circles of wealth and privilege, more malign neglect toward the national infrastructure, and more environmental disruption, along with a steady decline in literacy and a rolling collapse in public health, among other grim trends. These are the ways in which we’ve been “progressing”, and that’s the sense in which the GOP counts as America’s current progressive party: the policies being proposed by GOP candidates will push those same changes even further than they’ve already gone, resulting in more inequality, corruption, impoverishment, and so on.
> Resilience: How Economic Growth Fails (Gail Tverberg). The economy operates within a finite world, so at some point, a problem of diminishing returns develops. In other words, it takes more and more effort (human labor and use of resources) to produce a given quantity of oil or food, or fresh water, or other desirable products. The problem of slowing economic growth is very closely related to the question: How can the limits we are reaching be expected to play out in a finite world?
> Canadian Equities: How Sustainable Can Cities Be When They Can’t Even Deal With Their Own Shit? (Allan Stromfeldt Christensen). Problems of waste management are wide and varied, perhaps beginning with our tapping into fossil fuels of which made the large-scale approach to human effluent possible. Couple this with bureaucrats and engineers who often have a penchant for applying techno approaches to every problem, and you get the centralized system we currently have, a literal mess that is now happening. Instead of deferring to buttons, levers and other engineered advancements (“progress”), we’re literally going to have to learn how to deal with our own shit, and methods are going to have to be devised to return the nutrients within that shit to the land.
> Peak Oil: World Population Will Nearly Double By 2100 (I4U). The world population is growing at an unprecedented rate, and will nearly double as much as we have today by 2100. According to United Nations Population Division, the world population is 7.3 billion, will be 9.7 million in 2050, and will cross 11 billion by the end of the century. The global population growth will be largely driven by Africa, with a current population of 1.2 billion. These estimations, presented at 2015 Joint Statistical Meetings Monday, also indicate how important it is to take measures for controlling rapid population growth, especially in high-fertility countries that face many health, environmental and economical problems.
> Rolling Stone: The Point Of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here (Eric Holthaus). Historians may look to 2015 as the year when shit really started hitting the fan. For example, in just the past few months: record-setting heat waves in Pakistan and India each killed more than 1,000 people; in Washington state’s Olympic National Park the rainforest caught fire for the first time in living memory; in London temps reached 98 degrees Fahrenheit during the hottest July day on record; in California, suffering from its worst drought in a millennium, a 50-acre brush fire swelled seventyfold in a matter of hours, and a few days later, intense unheard-of summer rains pounded the region; and in Puerto Rico the strictest water rationing in history is underway, as a monster El Niño forms in the tropical Pacific Ocean, shifting weather patterns worldwide.
> Resilience: Peak Oil Review – Aug 17 (Tom Whipple). Here’s a review of oil news for the past week.
> Oil Price: Net Energy’ Deficit Preventing Economic Growth (Gail Tverberg). The economy operates within a finite world, so at some point, a problem of diminishing returns develops. In other words, it takes more and more effort (human labor and use of resources) to produce a given quantity of oil or food, or fresh water, or other desirable products. The problem of slowing economic growth is very closely related to the question: How can the limits we are reaching be expected to play out in a finite world? Many people imagine that we will “run out” of some necessary resource, such as oil, but I see the situation differently. Let me explain a few issues that may not be obvious.
> Resource Insights: Resource Insights: What Is The Price Of Oil Telling Us? (Kurt Cobb). As the world’s central energy commodity, oil is a good indicator of economic activity. The new slide in oil prices is signaling new weakness in the world economy, the kind that ought to frighten even the optimists this time. The long view suggests that the acute investment slump in oil which is unfolding will lead to tight supplies in a few years (because of all the wells that are not going to be drilled to replace the depletion from existing wells). That would set us up for a price spike at some point as it takes a considerable amount of time to ramp up new drilling after a long period of decline. See also: Double-Dip Oil Rout: Why An Oil Glut May Lead To A New World Of Energy
> Common Dreams: Renewable Energy: Why Emissions And The Economy Don’t Tell The Whole Story (Tara Ritter). a 2015 International Monetary Fund analysis estimated that oil and gas subsidies will amount to $5.3 trillion worldwide in 2015, more than the total health spending of all the world’s governments. And some critics think that figure is underestimated because it doesn’t account for the costs that climate change will incur as a direct result of burning fossil fuel. On the other hand, subsidies for renewable energy are estimated at $120 billion for 2015, which means that renewable energy subsidies will amount to just over 2% of the money spent on fossil fuel subsidies this year. The Made in Minnesota Solar Incentive Program is a success story of one such localized renewable energy policy.
> The Hill: Wind Power Hits Lowest Price On Record (Timothy Cama). A Monday report from the Department of Energy (DOE) said wind power that utilities bought last year in purchase power agreements, the main measurement for comparing costs, was 2.35 cents per kilowatt hour, the drop of two-thirds from its 2009 peak. Wind saw the most growth of any power source last year and, with 66 gigawatts installed, now accounts for 4.9 percent of the country’s electricity demand, DOE found.
> Ensia: What To Do About The Antidepressants, Antibiotics And Other Drugs Ending Up In Our Water (Elizabeth Grossman). About 90 percent of pharmaceuticals found in the environment arrive there after being excreted. The recent rapid increase in antibiotic use in humans and on livestock has reduced these drugs’ effectiveness. The rest of the pharmaceuticals in the environment come from discarded medicine and effluent releases at pharmaceutical manufacturing sites, many ending up in water — either as runoff from landfill or discharge from factories.
> MinnPost: A Torrent Of Mustard-Colored Waste Shows Lasting Risk Of Sulfide Mining (Ron Meador). As the multimillion-gallon mine-waste spill near Silverton, Colorado, spreads and settles, Minnesotans can brace for a series of placating messages on how the copper/nickel mines proposed for our north woods would be so very different from the Gold King operation that produced this fresh catastrophe. But there is also one huge commonality uniting all hard-rock mining for precious metals: When sulfide ores are dug up and crushed, moisture mixes with sulfur in the waste rock, and acid drainage follows as surely as night follows day. According to an AP piece that appeared in the Strib, there are 55,000 abandoned mines in the west, and “40 percent of the headwaters of Western waterways have been contaminated from mine runoff.” Note: Abandoned mines throughout Ohio still taint state rivers and streams with polluted water (Columbus Dispatch)
> On Earth: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (From Distant Flames) (Alisar Opar). Wildfire seasons are nearly 20 percent longer today on average than they were 35 years ago, found a recent Nature Communications study. Wildfires can contain harmful gases like NOx and ozone, as well as heavy metals, PAHs, and other fine particles. Short-term exposure to plumes has been linked to everything from asthma attacks to stroke to anxiety. People with preexisting respiratory and cardiovascular problems are particularly vulnerable, as are the elderly and the very young.
> Yes! Magazine: Americans Have $11.85 Trillion In Household Debt. How Did We Get Here? (Tracy Loeffelholz & Heidi Bruce; Info Graphic). Debt has more to do with stagnant wages than crazy spending. In past decades, the more the top 10% prospered, the more the bottom 90% borrowed.
> Resilience: 8 Reasons To Turn Your Lawn Into A Farm And Help Change The World (Andrew Martin). Yardfarmers is a new reality TV/documentary series hybrid for release in Spring 2017 that has the potential to shift how many see their backyards and food. Apart from raising awareness about some of the important issues and challenges we face, Yardfarmers is about converting unsustainable suburban developments, urban food deserts, or other neglected land into sustainable, more resilient opportunities for people, while building community. It is estimated that in the U.S alone there are approximately 40 million acres of unsustainable lawns. In 2015 the fifth largest crop in the United States by acreage was the turf-grass lawn.
> Yard Farmers: Food And Agriculture Play Significant Role In City Of Los Angeles Sustainability Plan (AJ Hughes). When Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti took office, he created a Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and appointed Matt Petersen as the city’s first chief sustainability officer. Now, Los Angeles has a comprehensive sustainability pLAn. Many factors, including water conservation, livable neighborhoods and waste management, naturally intersect with food and agriculture objectives.
> Modern Farmer: How to Build a Three–Bin Composter (Anita B. Stone). To compost, toss a thick layer of carbonaceous material, such as brown leaves, straw, or wood chips, into the first bin. Shovel nitrogen-rich material, including grass clippings, manure, and kitchen scraps (no meat or bones), on top of the browns and cover with another layer of carbonaceous material. When it has begun to decompose, turn the material into the next bin. Use the now-empty first bin to start the cycle over, moving and turning compost until it finishes “cooking” in the third bin.
> Take Part: Countries Big and Small Are Connecting Economic Growth To Renewable Energy, And It’s Working (Taylor Hill). Like the U.K., Costa Rica saw economic growth at the same time its energy-based greenhouse emissions decreased. The 3.6 percent increase in the country’s 2014 gross domestic product is just the latest in a five-year streak in economic growth. The Central American country and its 5 million citizens have a goal of being carbon-neutral by 2021. Mixing new geothermal energy projects in with its existing hydropower plants will make it even less reliant on fossil fuels.
> Crain’s Chicago Business: The Secret To An Energy-Efficient Home? No, It’s Not Solar (Lisa Bertagnoli). A 2,000 square-foot home that has no heating or cooling system is a rare phenomenon in the northern U. S. Here’s an attractive home that is comfortable to live in and an aesthetic delight.
> Science Daily: Municipal Utilities Drive Sustainability In Small Cities (Binghamton U) Small cities and rural areas lag behind in environmental protection policymaking because they often lack the financial or technical resources needed. According to newly published research at Binghamton University, places that have municipal utilities have the capacity to pursue sustainability—and are more likely to leverage that capacity to adopt more green energy policies.
> Citizens for Sustainability: Planning Forum, Sat., Aug. 29, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., St. Anthony Village Community Center.
> MN Pollution Control Agency: Eco Experience- Minnesota Goes Green, August 27-Sept. 7, Minnesota State Fair. Featuring hands-on activities, demonstrations and resources. More info: www.ecoexperience.org
> Future First-Women’s Congress for Future Generations: Women’s Companion For Political Change (Grassroots Organizing To Protect The Waters Of The Upper Midwest), Sat., Sept. 19, 2015; 9 a.m.- 4 p.m.; St Mary’s University Center, Banquet East (2nd Flr) 2540 Park Avenue, Mpls., MN. More Info: http://futurefirst.us/events/other-events/
> SAMEE: Round Table Conversation “Liquid Networks…Yet Another Intersection for the Arts and Sciences”, Thurs., Sept. 17, noon-1:30 p.m., U of MN Environmental Studies Bldg., Institute On The Environment, Rm. 380 (SAMEE=Sustainable Acts; Mother Earth’s Embrace)
> MN350: Ongoing Activism. More Info: http://mn350.nationbuilder.com/
> MN Pollution Control Agency: Free Eco-Experience Downloadable Handouts–Climate change: air quality; reducing, reusing, & recycling; water; and Nature Adventure Play.