SEF News-Views Digest No. 129 (5-4-16)
Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher
Citizens for Sustainability: Meeting-Forum, Sat., May 14, 10am-noon, Silver Lake Village Community Center, 3301 Silver Lake Rd. Free & open to public.
Brainwashing is an intensely exaggerated form of mind control, but there are subtler conspiratorial ways of manipulating people’s thinking and beliefs. Indeed, we are all being manipulated, either kindly or unkindly, by individuals we respect—family members and relatives, friends, teachers, bosses, and politicians—as well as by our honored institutions (church and state), socio-cultural beliefs, traditions, and practices. These more subtle forms of psycho-emotional manipulations (indoctrinations) may be considered as “brainwashing lite”.
For certain, we have all been manipulated to think, see, hear, and feel the many types of buy-this, do-this messages that bombard us daily. The turmoil experienced around the world, and particularly here in the U.S. with our presidential election process, provides ample evidence of subtle mind influences by existing powers, the various interest groups that inform us, teach us, and lead us.
To prove how persuasive these powerbrokers and institutions are, all we have to do is begin by raising a fundamental question: Why do I believe and act the way I do? More specifically, why do I subscribe to a certain religious belief (ideology), or behavior? And on a more secular level: Why do I believe in the concept of “The American Dream”? By honestly questioning our core beliefs, we may come to realize that some inherited beliefs are not equal to well-earned, self-discovered truths. Of course, after undergoing careful scrutiny, transmitted beliefs may prove trustworthy of adoption.
The beliefs bestowed upon us by others throughout our lives are rarely questioned—beginning in childhood (when we accept most beliefs without questioning), and continuing through our youth and even into adulthood. It seems that a large segment of Americans’ belief systems are stuck somewhere between childhood and adolescence. This observation might possibly explain the seemingly adolescent behavior expressed by admirers of one presidential candidate.
Addressing generalities is all we have time for in this commentary, but I’m sure readers can think of numerous examples of beliefs and behaviors that need to be thoroughly examined or re-examined. I’ve been doing this all of my adult life, and my worldview has gradually assimilated new information and insights. The person who doesn’t change his or her beliefs at some point is probably not sufficiently open-minded in seeking truth, which sages claim as the appropriate evolutionary path in developing higher consciousness.
In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the last advice Polonius offers to his son, Laertes, has resonated within me for most of my adult life: “This above all: To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the day the night, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
My interpretation of this statement boils down to accepting only those beliefs and concepts that are founded in reality, or at least an educated opinion of what appears to be real, which, admittedly, can be an extremely difficult task to decode. This is where critical thinking, reason, good sense (not common sense), objective observation, and creative intuition come into integrative play.
Although each of us can be molded to assume a wide variety of belief systems and behaviors, it’s largely up to us as individuals to break free of imposed beliefs. The only sure way of doing this is by seeking truth, no matter where it leads. For example, If after thorough soul searching one decides that a certain worldview provides the most satisfyingly appropriate guidelines for living a meaningful, productive life, then he or she will likely shed previously held beliefs. Serving two masters (belief systems) only creates inner confusion and discord.
Previous comments have been aimed at setting you up to read the first three articles in the following Views section: “The New Mind Manipulators”; “The End of Introspection (And Why It Matters)”; and “How Facebook Plans to Take Over the World”. In reading them you will learn how a cadre of elite individuals (the top 1-10%) have conspired to increase their wealth and political power at the expense of fellow citizens’ labor and purchasing power (the 90-99%). You will also learn how influential mass marketers, like Facebook, are responsible for addicting growing numbers of citizens to digital applications that control every aspect of our lives. Breaking free of such malevolent external manipulators must become a high priority for citizens, especially as we approach what seems to be a very precarious, uncertain future. To be truly free as individuals, we must strive to break the negative bonds that are binding us—socio-politically, economically, environmentally, and ideologically.
> Huffington Post: The New Mind Manipulators (Jeremy Lent). A series of scientific studies show how a few dominant institutions have the power to affect how you feel, how you act, and even how you vote – without you ever knowing about it. Nearly a hundred years ago, our global mania for consumption was unleashed by the malevolent brilliance of Edward Bernays, known as the “father of public relations.” “We must shift America from a needs to a desires culture,” declared Bernays’ business partner, Paul Mazur. Bernays set in motion what we have all come to know as an essential part of our capitalist ecosystem: the use of mass media to promote roles, desires and status symbols that rake in profits for corporations. What’s changed is that a new generation of mind controllers is using the burgeoning technologies of data mining and social media to inject their power even deeper into our minds than their forebears could have dreamed possible.
> Resource Insights: The End Of Introspection (And Why It Matters (Kurt Cobb). One study concluded that “the average college student uses a smartphone for about nine hours each day”. Presumably, users have complete control as to how cell phones are used, but actually it’s the aps that provide most of the controls” (10 Ways Marketers Are Making You Addicted to Apps). Face-to-face conversations are becoming more rare. This leads to thinking that we are creating a whole generation of people who are ill-adapted to the giant demands of our emerging predicaments related to climate change; energy, soil, fisheries, forestry and water depletion; species extinction; public health threats; and threats from rapidly evolving technologies such as genetic engineering and nanotechnology–just to name a few. If real-life activities become a mainstay, the cellphone will find its proper place as a useful communications tool in a limited fashion for addressing life’s critical issues.
> The Guardian: How Facebook Plans To Take Over The World (Olivia Solon). Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, recently delivered the keynote address at the F8 conference. He warns of “people and nations turning inwards – against this idea of a connected world and community”, a position that fits both with his ideology and that of Facebook. “You hear all the platitudes about Facebook connecting the planet, but to say they are doing it for benevolent reasons is absolute nonsense. It’s about connecting commerce, not people,” says venture capitalist and former journalist Om Malik, who reminds us of the hidden agenda of social networking firms: if you’re not paying, you’re the product. Every click, every like, every comment and every connection is used to build up a rich profile of each user. Brands can then pay Facebook to target users based on their age, location, relationship status and interests. This is how Facebook makes its money – profiles of us that advertisers adore.
> Alternet: We Could Be Witnessing The Death Of The Fossil Fuel Industry—Will It Take The Rest Of The Economy Down With It? (Nafeez Ahmed). It’s not looking good for the global fossil fuel industry. Although the world remains heavily dependent on oil, coal and natural gas—which today supply around 80 percent of our primary energy needs—the industry is rapidly crumbling. This is not merely a temporary blip, but a symptom of a deeper, long-term process related to global capitalism’s escalating overconsumption of planetary resources and raw materials. New scientific research shows that the growing crisis of profitability facing fossil fuel industries is part of an inevitable period of transition to a post-carbon era. But ongoing denialism has led powerful vested interests to continue clinging blindly to their faith in fossil fuels, with increasingly devastating and unpredictable consequences for the environment. [See related article In News: “Saudi Arabia Agrees Plans to Move Away From Oil Profits”]
> The Archdruid Report: Where On The Titanic Would You Like Your Deck Chair, Ma’am? (John Michael Greer). Regarding the convoluted landscape of privilege in American society, one of the things determined by privilege is who has a voice in making collective decisions. The affluent classes in America have the privileges, the benefits, and the comforts they have for two reasons: 1) the world’s industrial societies are consuming irreplaceable natural resources at unsustainable rates in order to keep the global economy churning out the goods and services needed to prop up affluent lifestyles; and 2) wildly unbalanced patterns of exchange concentrate the lion’s share of the benefits of that orgy of environmental destruction in the hands of a small percentage of our species. Both of the pillars propping up their [our] lives are now running up against hard limits.
> Weathering The Storm: Oil: A New Ticking Time Bomb (R. Michael Conley). The price of WTI crude oil bounced above $106 per barrel on June 12, 2014. Few, if any, could have imagined the meteoric plunge – and carnage – that would soon follow this high point. The shock waves have reshaped the energy and financial markets and destabilized the geopolitical order. Worse, the shortsighted responses to date are sowing the seeds for a crushing new global oil crisis. In this issue, publisher Conley sounds the alarm on a ticking time bomb in the making. There are several things we can and should do – and this applies not only to individual behaviors but also to companies and countries: think strategically; act prudently; and leverage effectively.
> Duluth News Tribune: Governor’s View: On Water Quality, Failure Is Not An Option (Mark Dayton). As Minnesotans we have no greater shared responsibility than our stewardship to protect and improve the priceless natural resources that we will pass on to our children and grandchildren. That wise stewardship is everyone’s challenge and everyone’s opportunity. Tragically, in recent years, the quality of our water has deteriorated in many parts of our state. Too many lakes, rivers, streams, and ditches have become contaminated with potentially dangerous chemicals. In some communities, the surface and underground waters our citizens use for drinking, washing, work, and recreation are no longer safe. Ignoring our water quality problems is not a solution. Doing nothing will only make matters worse by allowing problems to turn into crises. Visit the Water Action Week webpage at mn.gov/governor to learn more about the water quality challenges in your community.
> Resilience: Emergence of a New Economics (David Boyle). There is an argument that the emergence of a new economics based on human dignity and sustainability is a phenomenon that emerged from the environmental crisis and the modern corruption of bankers and financial markets. Economics as if people mattered; economics that recognizes that money can also be a hindrance, and that the economic system can create poverty is the basis of the emerging understanding we know as the new economics. The Victorian art critic, John Ruskin, wrote: “There is no wealth but life, including all of its powers of love, of joy, and of admiration. That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest number of noble and happy human beings; that man is richest who, having perfected the functions of his own life to the utmost, has also the widest helpful influence, both personal, and by means of his possessions, over the lives of others.”
> Peak Prosperity: Automating Ourselves To Unemployment (Adam Taggert). The cost of a human employee is much more than just the salary he or she receives. Employers of every size are experiencing a growing surge of additional workforce expenses, including the Affordable Healthcare Act, the cost of complying with workplace safety regulations and compliance costs for the Americans With Disabilities Act, and hassle factors of oversight, management, and training. Is it any wonder that businesses are desperately looking for ways to replace human labor with automation, not for profitability but for survival? Jobs lost to automation don’t come back. Once an industry has invested in mechanical infrastructure and moved up the efficiency curve, it doesn’t abandon that investment. What is much less debatable is the displacement of a large percentage of human labor—without a plan in place to put that displaced labor to productive use, a sure-fire recipe for long-term crisis.
> Climate Progress: Record-Breaking Hot Ocean Temperatures Are Frying The Great Barrier Reef (Ryan Koronowski). The Great Barrier Reef’s coral is dying, and it may never be the same again. Last month, as historically high ocean temperatures bathed the waters around the Great Barrier Reef, the Australian government raised the coral bleaching threat to the highest level possible. On an aerial reconnaissance trip from Cairns to Papua New Guinea, researchers observed the parts of the reef that are supposed to be the most pristine and vibrant. What they saw was chilling. This is the longest bleaching event in recorded history — almost two years at this point, with little sign of stopping. This is dangerous because it gives the coral no time for respite.
> MPR: Greenland’s Glaciers Likely Melting Faster Than Thought (Sanden Totten). A team of researchers from UC-Irvine and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory went about mapping the sea floor of Greenland’s fjords and the topography they found is conducive to warmer waters — which means more rapid melting, and potentially, a greater rise in sea levels around the world. The study came out of a gap in researchers’ understanding of Greenland’s fjords, which are long, narrow inlets of water created by glacial erosion. These bodies of water are often where ocean meets ice, making them a crucial part of glacial melting. The deeper the fjords, the more the glaciers there are exposed to warmer water, leading to faster melting and increased sea level rise around the world.
> Bloomberg: Half Of U.S. Conservatives Say Climate Change Is Real (Eric Roston). The percentage of conservative Republicans who consider global warming a threat shot up 19 points in two years, to 47 percent, according to public opinion researchers at Yale University and George Mason University. Overall, 56 percent of Republicans agree that it’s happening. Including Democrats and independents, the national average for the U.S. is 73 percent. Liberal-to-moderate Republicans say climate change is real in much higher numbers than the party’s right wing does. More than 70 percent of GOP moderates say they know the world is warming, up 10 percentage points from two years ago. But only half of these Republicans, and just 26 percent of conservative Republicans, identify the problem as caused mostly by human activities.
> Chicago Tribune: Organic Farms On The Rise (Meredith Cohn, Tim Wheeler). It seems that organic farming is gaining a nice foothold in America and is doing okay business-wise. The Organic Production Survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows the amount of farmland dedicated to organic crops and livestock is still really small but growing fast. The survey said there are 14,540 farms that were USDA certified organic or exempt from certification because sales are less than $5,000 — including 129 in Maryland. The number has doubled at least twice since 1990. Organic farming is largely local with about 44 percent of sales were made within 100 miles from the farm. More than 78 percent of the farms say they plan to keep up the organic farming and even increase production in coming years.
> BBC News: Saudi Arabia Agrees Plans To Move Away From Oil Profits (Staff). Announcing new reforms, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman described his country as being addicted to oil. The Vision 2030 plan, he told the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel, would ensure “we can live without oil by 2020”. Oil has made Saudi Arabia a major economic force. But it comes at a cost. The short-term problem is the volatile price of crude oil, which is now less than half what it was in mid-2014. Saudi Arabia has deep pockets, but the country needs to become less dependent on oil for government revenue and for the jobs and incomes of Saudi nationals. Vast oil revenues have allowed the Saudi government to offer generous subsidies on utilities to its population. But some of these were cut last year in response to falling oil prices.
> Resilience: Peak Oil Review: A Midweek Update – Apr 28 (Tom Whipple). Oil prices continued to climb this week, capped by a 3 percent jump on Wednesday, which set new highs for 2016. Support for the price rally comes from continuing drop in the US oil-rig count and US oil production which is down about 700,000 b/d in the last year. A case can be made that US production decline is being offset by increased production and exports from the Middle East. The continuing increase in US crude inventories suggests that limits to storage capacity remain an issue. The oil situation in some countries, like Iraq, Kurdistan, and Venezuela, is bleak, marked by socio-political and economic instability.
> NPR: Why Are Highly Educated Americans Getting More Liberal? (Danielle Kurtzleben). A report from the Pew Research Center finds a wide partisan gap between highly educated and non-highly-educated Americans. Not only that, but the share of college grads and post-graduates who are “consistently liberal” (based on their answers to a series of policy questions) has grown sharply in the last 20 years. It’s not that conservatives haven’t grown more conservative over the years, in Pew’s estimation; according to their data, both sides have polarized. It’s just that conservatives don’t have this kind of education-related pattern.
> Yes! Magazine: Retrofitting Suburbia: Communities Innovate Their Way Out Of Suburban Scrawl (Erin Sagen). Suburbanites have twice the carbon footprint as city dwellers; they spend more on housing and transportation combined; and they’re more likely to struggle with obesity or die in car crashes. These realities paint a far less rosy picture than the days of early commuters. But today an enthusiastic network of designers, city planners, lawmakers, and longtime locals are envisioning a new era for suburbia. Because so many people value walkability, communities must invest in smarter, denser infrastructure, the future of suburban development seems to be pointing backward—to the pre-automobile, train-based model. A new era has been born, and driving it is no longer the car but the community. Soon, rather than “the end of suburbia,” planners may be predicting “the end of sprawl.”
> The Next System: Participatory Economics And The Next System (Robin Hahnel). In the midst of escalating economic dysfunction, new economic initiatives are sprouting up everywhere. What these diverse “new” or “future” economy initiatives have in common is that they reject the economics of competition and greed and aspire instead to develop an economics of equitable cooperation that is environmentally sustainable. The major institutions that comprise a participatory economy are: social ownership of the productive “commons,” democratic worker councils and federations, neighborhood consumer councils and federations, and a very carefully constructed procedure we call participatory planning that these councils and federations use to coordinate, or plan, their interrelated activities themselves.
> Resilience: A Permaculture Guide To Choosing Cover Crops (Toby Hemenway). One of my constant refrains is “Permaculture is a decision making tool for arriving at regenerative solutions.” Here I’m going to show how permaculture can help create strategies for deciding what cover crops to use. In permaculture, we’re always looking for potent leverage points, and soil building is a big one. If we create fertile, water-absorbing, biology-rich soil, a lot of higher-level problems—things like insect damage, low nutrition, poor growth, and excess water use—all go away. And cover cropping, which is the use of specific plants to add organic matter and nutrients. One of my top sources of cover crop information is Peaceful Valley Farm Supply (https://www.groworganic.com). Here’s a table of over 100 useful cover crops, edited from a USDA list at http://plants.usda.gov/java/coverCrops?sort=comname.
> Resilience-Feasta: What Is Closed Loop Agriculture? (Feidlhlim Harty). Current farming practice relies heavily on imported nutrients to sustain high production. Closed-loop agriculture is farming practice that recycles all nutrients and organic matter material back to the soil that it grew in. This forms part of an agricultural practice that preserves the nutrient and carbon levels within the soil and allows farming to be carried out on a sustainable basis. Download full report (pdf document, 2.1 MB)
> Tech Insider: Someone Made A House Out Of Cardboard (Grace Raver). Someone made a house out of cardboard— and it can be assembled in a day. The Dutch designed Wikkelhouse is 3 times more eco-friendly than a traditionally built house. Here’s why you want one.
> New York Times: Monotasking Gets A Makeover (Andy Rash). Multitasking, that bulwark of anemic résumés everywhere, has come under fire in recent years. But monotasking, also referred to as single-tasking or unitasking, isn’t just about getting things done. Not the same as mindfulness, which focuses on emotional awareness, monotasking is a 21st-century term for what your high school English teacher probably just called “paying attention.” Monotasking can also make work itself more enjoyable, and as simple as having a conversation.
> Breakfree: Disobedience. This powerful new 40-minute film by DisobedientProductions presents information, leaders, and worldwide movements in the grassroots movement to stop fossil fuel production in order to lower CO2 emissions and ameliorate the growing effects of climate change. A must-see film for anyone concerned about our future.
> Bloomberg: Bloomberg Carbon Clock: Measuring Carbon Dioxide. See How Much CO2 the Earth Is Churning Out in Real Time. 350ppm is the safe threshold, and it has now reached over 404, and is climbing steadily. Estimates are based on monthly averages.
SUSTAINABILITY INFO & EVENTS
> Citizens For Sustainability: May Forum-Meeting. Sat., May 14, 10 a.m.–noon, SAV Community Center, 3301 Silver Lake Rd. Free & open to public. (http://citizensforsustainability.org/)
> Conversation Earth: Exploring Our Place on the Planet (Dave Gardner, Interviewer). A Weekly Radio Series & Podcast, providing surprising perspectives from leading thinkers on the most important issues of our time.
> MN Environmental Partnership (MEP) April Environmental Events. See website: http://www.mepartnership.org/events/
> MN350: Climate Campaigns And Projects. For a listing of campaigns, projects, and events, see: http://www.mn350.org/campaigns-projects/
> Clean Energy Resource Teams: Clean Energy Accelerator. Metro CERT – offering rapid energy assistance to cities, counties, & schools (http://www.cleanenergyresourceteams.org/accelerator/lugs). Commerce Opens Applications Statewide For Made In Minnesota Solar Thermal Rebate, Learn more >>
> Bloomberg: Bloomberg Carbon Clock. View in the amount of carbon being spewed into the atmosphere according to monthly averages.