> NOTICE! Citizens for Sustainability: Business & Discussion Forum, Sat., Jan. 9, 10 am-noon, St. Anthony Village Community Center, Room CS9, 3301 Silver Lake Rd.
SEF News-Views Digest No. 115 (1-6-16)
Now that the holiday celebrations are over, and we’ve siatered 2016, what’s next? According to widespread media sources, many citizens may continue experiencing discontent with many aspects of life—economically, politically, and socially. Meanwhile, those of us fortunate enough to remain middle-class citizens may continue enjoying overall life satisfaction in 2016, perhaps even for years to come. But, maybe not, depending on what happens next—beginning this year.
Objective observers—those who keep abreast of wide-ranging world news and views—may find it difficult generating optimism about the future. More and more people appear to be justly concerned about a host of developing circumstances and conditions, including a worldwide economic slowdown, mounting climate-change and weather-related events, and widespread social unrest (terrorism, economic inequality, injustice, etc.). It seems the overall prognosis of where we’re headed grows more precarious every year.
At least one article in the Views section addresses increasingly ominous anxieties related to projected climate-change consequences. Meghan Walsh’s article—“It’s The End of the World—How Do You Feel” –reports the effects doomsday fears have on the psycho-emotional health of many climate scientists, a group most knowledgeable about global warming and its potential negative effects for all life on earth. Of particular interest is information found on the website This is How Scientists Feel—Is This How You Feel? (See link in the article summary). The climate scientists’ personal statements, many in handwritten formats, passionately express their deepest feelings and thoughts about the future, especially their concerns for future generations of world citizens.
Assuming these learned scientists do fully understand—and are deeply alarmed about the potential calamities humanity will encounter in coming years—perhaps their messages will help modulate the inexplicable chorus of climate-change deniers. Moreover, how may these scientists’ messages be interpreted by the exuberant we-can-do-anything-we-set-our-minds-to “technofixers”, who maintain that human ingenuity will eventually create some technological wizardry to save civilization? Well, maybe, maybe not. Only time will tell.
I, for one, don’t see how technology will save us, but I surely hope I’m mistaken. For certain, technologies will help mitigate and slow some negative developments, but our best strategy for sustaining a vibrant civilization will depend on our developing as much resilience as possible, along with powering down on energy use, conserving natural resources, and developing collaborative social connections. And of course we can also continue to improve individually, working on how we think and behave as creative, collaborative, and compassionate citizens. ––––– Clifton Ware (Editor-Publisher)
> Yahoo News: It’s The End Of The World — How Do You Feel? (Meghan Walsh). There is a paradigm shift taking place in the field of science with the recognition that even the most stoic minds of the world need a way to process their doomsday findings. There’s a growing sense of urgency as worsening environmental catastrophes play out before us. In the midst of what many in the science community — by “many,” we mean upward of 95 percent — are calling a planetary crisis, more researchers are finding that they can’t simply present their data in a vacuum, then go home at the end of the day and crack open a beer. And now there’s the website This Is How Scientists Feel – Is This How You Feel?, which publishes handwritten letters from climate scientists expressing their frustrations, fears and hopes. Science is perhaps the last frontier of neutrality, especially in today’s polarized society.
> The New York Times: Climate Chaos, Across The Map (Justin Gillis). What is going on with the weather? With tornado outbreaks in the South, Christmas temperatures that sent trees into bloom in Central Park, drought in parts of Africa and historic floods drowning the old industrial cities of England, 2015 is closing with a string of weather anomalies all over the world. The year, expected to be the hottest on record, may be over, but the trouble will not be. Rain in the central United States has been so heavy that major floods are beginning along the Mississippi River and are likely to intensify in coming weeks. California may lurch from drought to flood by late winter. Most serious, millions of people could be threatened by a developing food shortage in southern Africa. Coincidence or not, every kind of trouble that the experts have been warning about for years seems to be occurring at once.
> Archdruid Report: Too Little, Too Late (John Michael Greer). The factors that drove COP-21 to the latest round of non-solutions are among the most potent forces shoving industrial civilization on its one-way trip to history’s compost bin. There’s a profound irony in all the rhetoric from Paris about balancing concerns about the climate with the supposed need for perpetual economic growth. By the time COP-21’s attendees convened in Paris, it was probably already too late to keep global climate change from spinning completely out of control. Part of the predicament of our time can be defined by the words “too little, too late” as our basic approach to the future looming up ahead of us.
> Ensia: Two Futurists Tell Us What We Need To Be Thinking Today To Shape A Healthy Tomorrow (Jamais Cascio & Ramez Naam). In an effort to look at things with a longer time frame in mind, we [Ensia staff] invited futurist Jamais Cascio and author Ramez Naam to have a free-flowing conversation about what they think we need to know about our world in the decades to come. Settling into a discussion centered around climate change, geoengineering, transportation, production and energy, the result is one of the most fascinating conversations you’ll read all year — and hopefully one that will help you think about the world and our place in it for years to come.
> Common Dreams: To Change Everything, It’s Going To Take Everything We’ve Got (John Foran). We’re in a crisis so deep, so knotted, so unprecedented, and so urgent that, well, we have to change everything, pretty much—or else. Let’s start with the situation: our operating system here on Earth has gone critical—as in far too many greenhouse gases, poisoned waters, dying oceans, melting ice, heat waves, drought, floods, cyclones, air pollution, land degradation, and on down the long lonely line of the civilizational highlights of the twenty-first century. This is on top of the poverty, the hunger, the forced migration, the joblessness, and the hopelessness. And it’s all inter-connected, isn’t it?
Resilience: Let’s Define Degrowth Before We Dismiss It (Aaron Vansintjan). The author argues that definitions of growth are either unclear or constantly shifting depending on the argument. The result is that authors often misunderstand and do not engage adequately with critiques of growth. Degrowth, then, is about challenging the idea that infinite and positive exponential growth in monetary transactions (GDP) is the main tool for achieving well-being, today and for future generations. Further, degrowth is about acknowledging that exponential GDP growth has been, and will likely be for the foreseeable future, linked with rising material and energy throughput, and that this increase in total consumption has disastrous effects on the earth and its people.
> Resilience: Five Energy Surprises For 2016: The Possible And The Impossible (Kurt Cobb). I am not predicting that any of the following will happen, only that there is an outside chance that one or more will occur: 1) Crude oil ends 2016 below $30 per barrel; 2) U.S. natural gas production declines; 3) Several approved U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects are postponed or abandoned; 4) Bipartisan support for climate change measures emerges in the U.S. Congress; and 5) World oil production declines.
> Huffington Post: The Plutocrats Are Winning. Don’t Let Them! (Bill Moyers). Fourteen years later [after 9/11], we can see more clearly the implications. After three decades of engineering a winner-take-all economy, and buying the political power to consummate their hold on the wealth created by the system they had rigged in their favor, they [plutocrats] were taking the final and irrevocable step of separating themselves permanently from the common course of American life. They would occupy a gated stratosphere far above the madding crowd while their political hirelings below look after their earthly interests. Can we at least face the truth? The plutocrats and oligarchs are winning. The vast inequality they are creating is a death sentence for government by consent of the people at large.
> The New York Times: Privilege, Pathology And Power (Paul Krugman). Wealth can be bad for your soul. That’s not just a hoary piece of folk wisdom; it’s a conclusion from serious social science, confirmed by statistical analysis and experiment. The affluent are, on average, less likely to exhibit empathy, less likely to respect norms and even laws, more likely to cheat, than those occupying lower rungs on the economic ladder. So what happens to a nation that gives ever-growing political power to the superrich? Oligarchy, rule by the few, also tends to become rule by the monstrously self-centered.
> MinnPost: Lake Warming: The Implications Are Both Global And Dire Ron Meador). Lakes holding more than half the world’s surface freshwater have been warming up at alarming rates, according to new research backed by NASA and the National Science Foundation. Indeed, the average increase of .61 degrees Fahrenheit per decade (.34° Celsius) exceeds the warming rates of either Earth’s atmosphere or its oceans.
> Bloomberg Business: Ungoverned- World Map Of Refugees, Terrorists, & Deaths (Staff). The violence and chaos inside Syria, where Islamic State terrorists and other rebel groups control large portions of the country, is so dire that millions of people have fled and the U.N. has stopped trying to keep count of the dead. Yet Syria is just one of many places across the globe where warlords, separatists, drug cartels, or terror groups have seized territory within a sovereign nation, leaving the government with little or no power—and the people to fend for themselves. This info-graphic illustrates all major hot spots, and provides essential data about each. Total figures include 17,805 killed in 2014, 4,194,203 killed since start of conflicts, and 30,847,773 internally displaced persons.
> The Atlantic: Nature’s Warning Signal (Staff). The Peter Lake experiment demonstrated a well-known problem with complex systems: They are sensitive beasts. Just as when the Earth periodically plunges into an ice age, or when grasslands turn to desert, fisheries suddenly collapse, or a person slumps into a deep depression, systems can drift toward an invisible edge, where only a small change is needed to touch off a dramatic and often disastrous transformation. But systems that exhibit such “critical transitions” tend to be so complicated and riddled with feedback loops that experts cannot hope to calculate in advance where their tipping points lie—or how much additional tampering they can withstand before snapping irrevocably into a new state.
> Investment Watchdog: 58 Facts About The U.S. Economy From 2015 That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe (Michael Snyder). The world didn’t completely fall apart in 2015, but it is undeniable that an immense amount of damage was done to the U.S. economy. This year the middle class continued to deteriorate, more Americans than ever found themselves living in poverty, and the debt bubble that we are living in expanded to absolutely ridiculous proportions. Toward the end of the year, a new global financial crisis erupted, and it threatens to completely spiral out of control as we enter 2016. We are in the midst of a long-term economic collapse that is beginning to accelerate once again. [These 58 facts illustrate how shaky the US economy is becoming—and how important it is for individuals, families, and communities to prepare for increasingly hard times.]
> Too Much: Too Much Online (Staff). You can’t really appreciate how phenomenally unequal the United States has become until you take a gander at America’s peer nations. In the United States, the latest Federal Reserve figures point out, the top 10 percent owns 75.3 percent of our national wealth. And the households of the bottom half? Their wealth holdings add up to just 1.1 percent. [Lots of information provided in this newsletter, including inequality statistics, plutocratic personages, etc.]
> AP-MPR: Mining, Water, Carbon Top Minnesota’s Environmental Agenda (Steve Karnowski). Major decisions on copper-nickel mining, a water quality summit and a push to reduce carbon emissions by Minnesota’s utilities will be among the top issues on Minnesota’s environmental agenda for 2016. Some of the debate will be very public, while much of the work on issues such as oil pipelines and wild rice will take place behind the scenes, within state agencies that will be conducting environmental reviews and developing regulations.
> Common Dreams: Six Hopeful Breakthroughs From 2015 (Sarah Van Gelder). Despite conflicts and crises at home and abroad, 2015 offered glimpses of the road to a more just, compassionate, and sustainable world. It was a year of new activism in defense of black lives and the life of the planet, new focus on the underlying causes of inequality, and evidence of a deep reservoir of compassion that motivated millions in a time of crisis.
> Star Tribune: How Tackling Climate Change Will Pay Off (Tina Smith). Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith strongly support bold action to tackle climate change. Smith: “Doing so will be good for our environment, good for our health and good for our economy”.
> Weathering the Storm: Progress Not Perfection (Mike Conley). Though imperfect, COP21 is a game-changer; perhaps even our last best hope of addressing one of our greatest challenges ever; runaway climate change. (See: COP-21: Crunch time in Paris) While it’s easy to lose sight of the big pictures and pick holes in the COP-21 agreement, we need to remember two things: 1) It establishes a global framework and protocols for attacking a global threat at a global level and is, perhaps, our last best chance to act decisively while we still can, and 2) It provides a dynamic process that can be continuously improved upon and adjusted to meet future circumstances. In this venue, it is wise to remember that what really counts most is “progress not perfection.”
> Sustainability Event: Sustainability Fair 2015. A well-attended and highly acclaimed sustainability fair was held on Thurs., Nov. 19th, 5:30-8 p.m. at Silverwood Park in St. Anthony Village, MN. This third annual event was co-sponsored by the cities of St. Anthony Village, Lauderdale, and Falcon Heights, in collaboration with the Three Rivers Park District, the U of MN Institute on the Environment, and Citizens for Sustainability, a local citizens’ group. 26 students enrolled in a sustainability class taught by two co-instructors presented a variety of exhibits, in conjunction with several non-profit local groups. A 15-minute video presents a fine overview of the fair (https://youtu.be/m7ZMXgKmxm0).
> Daily KOS: A Rare Bipartisan Congress Gives Microbeads The Heave-Ho (Meteor Blades). It’s estimated that 808 trillion plastic microbeads are washed down U.S. drains every day. The vast majority are captured in the settled sludge of sewer treatment plants. But some 8 to 11 trillion of them still find their way into the aquatic environment daily. There, they collect deadly pollutants like PCBs and are eaten by fresh and saltwater creatures, who in turn are eaten by larger creatures all the way up the food chain to humans. But, thanks to passage of H.R.1321, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, production of microbeads is banned after July 2017.
> Yahoo News: 10 Discoveries That Made Us Healthier In 2015 (Max Lugavere). Here are some fascinating things learned about health over the past year, in no particular order, that you ought to pay attention to if you value things like feeling vibrant, boosting brainpower, and living longer! They include: the brain-immune system connection; danger of using cell phones prior to sleeping; benefits of spicy foods, olive oil and the Mediterranean Diet; and dangers associated with drinking diet soda, eating grains, and bad lifestyle choices.
> The Archdruid Report: Retrotopia: Neglected Technologies (John Michael Greer). This is the twelfth installment of an exploration of some of the possible futures discussed on this blog, using the toolkit of narrative fiction. Our narrator attends the Lakeland Republic’s annual drone shoot, and finds out that not all technological innovations start out from the current state of the art…
SUSTAINABILITY INFO & EVENTS
> Featured Sustainability Websites: Growthbusters and World Population Balance. Growthbusters’ podcasts: Conversation Earth
> MPLS Green: Sustainable We Forums (9 forums—focused on designing a sustainable environment together).
> Clean Energy Resource Teams: Clean Energy Accelerator. Metro CERT – offering rapid energy assistance to cities, counties, & schools.