SEF News-Views Digest No. 136 (6-22-16)
Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher
Citizens for Sustainability: Meeting-Forum, Sat., July 19, 10am-noon, Silver Lake Village Community Center, 3301 Silver Lake Rd. Free & open to public.
The Hulk vs. Spock (Credit: ETSPIC.COM)
This commentary relates strongly to last week’s about the so-called “cult of ignorance” in the U,S. An article by Albert Bates—“Hot Brain, Cool Brain” (first in Views section)—provides additional supportive information about the psycho-emotional processes of both hotheaded and coolheaded people. Bates, a civil sector representative at the Copenhagen climate conference, is primarily focused on pointing the world back towards a stable atmosphere, by using soils and trees. His books include Climate in Crisis and The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook.
The main take-away from the article is that hot-brained people are more short-term oriented, and compelled to seek immediate gratification. In contrast, cool-brained people are more capable of self-control in practicing delayed gratification. Cool-brained citizens are therefore more able to think and plan ahead in making preparations for long-term consequences, for instance, in dealing with the accumulating negative effects of climate change.
This topic also helps in shedding light on the national political scene, particularly as related to the presidential candidates—and their supporters. Hotheaded and coolheaded folk exist in both conservative and progressive camps, but it doesn’t’ take superior mental faculties to discern which side represents a more cool-brained approach to solving long-term problems. To stimulate your thinking, how about pondering this question: Would you assess our current president as a hotheaded or coolheaded leader? It’s likely your answer will illustrate what type of brain you’ve developed over a lifetime.
This psycho-emotional topic is also indirectly addressed in Chris Martenson‘s article, “Tensions Between US/NATO and Russia Are Flaring Dangerously” (Views, second article). In the growing cold-war atmosphere that appears to be building between these powerful nations, Martenson fears that political and military leaders may err towards hot-brained responses. According to him, “there are 51 insane people (a least) in the US State Department that think attacking Russia directly would be a swell idea. . . . . I would certainly love to know the names of those individuals. I’d bet good money that the list is heavily stocked with neocons.” He says the punch line to it all is: “War with Russia is a distinct possibility, and US and NATO are increasing that risk through escalating provocation”.
As if we didn’t have enough to worry about in creating a resilient, sustainable world, now we have the presumed potential threat of warmongering to keep us on edge. This is an exciting time to be alive, that’s for certain.
> Resilience: Hot Brain Cool Brain (Albert Bates). Our cockeyed worldview has a concatenation of causes. We are products of the religious views of our parents. We inhabit a globalized culture that infantilizes us while it trains us to become dedicated followers of fashion. We like hearing the sound of our “own” voice in our heads. Add all that up and it amounts to simmering distrust. We are not at all prepared to delay gratification. Those who find themselves more often on the winning side – whether in athletics, business, politics or relationships – are those who have cool brains. They play the long game. Voting these days is like choosing between the hot faucet and the cold faucet, but only the hot faucet works.
> Peak Prosperity: Tensions Between US/NATO & Russia Are Flaring Dangerously (Chris Martenson). As if there weren’t enough crises to worry about in the world already, from shooting rampages to accelerating species loss, the US and NATO continue to ‘poke the bear’ and risk an outbreak of war with Russia. It’s imperial hubris and petulance that seems to be driving the ship of state. That’s a dangerous thing. The bottom line is this: If you’re not already mentally and physically prepared for the prospect of a NATO/US war with Russia, you really should be. Perhaps the chances of outright war are still low on a relative scale, but the costs would be catastrophically high—making this worthy of your attention. A low risk of a catastrophic outcome is the very reason we all buy insurance—life, auto, and home. Not because we wish things to go wrong in our lives, but because they sometimes do nonetheless.
> Post Carbon Institute: Tiptoeing Through The Renewable Energy Minefield (Richard Heinberg). While renewable energy can indeed power industrial societies, there is probably no credible future scenario in which humanity will maintain current levels of energy use (on either a per capita or total basis). Therefore, current levels of resource extraction, industrial production, and consumption are unlikely to be sustained—much less can they perpetually grow. Further, getting to an optimal all-renewable energy future will require hard work, investment, adaptation, and innovation on a nearly unprecedented scale. We will be changing more than our energy sources; we’ll be transforming both the ways we use energy and the amounts we use. The political roadblocks will be overwhelming. You can help by visiting the Our Renewable Future website.
> MPR: A Map Of Where Your Food Originated May Surprise You (Jeremy Cherfas). Globally, foreign crops made up 69 percent of country food supplies and farm production. In the United States, diet depends on crops from the Mediterranean and West Asia, like wheat, barley, chickpea, almonds and others. Meanwhile, the U.S. farm economy is centered on soybeans from East Asia and maize from Mexico and Central America, as well as wheat and other crops from the Mediterranean. The U.S. is itself the origin of sunflowers, which countries from Argentina to China grow and consume. Global interdependence also extends to the future of crops — for example, to combat the threats of climate change and new pests and diseases.
> Grist: Welcome To The Future, Where It’s So Hot Roads Are Buckling (Katie Herzog). A heat wave in Minnesota recently saw temperatures reaching into the mid-90s. And while Minnesota is no stranger to extreme weather, the rapid temperature rise caused roads in the scorched state to buckle under the sun and send unsuspecting vehicles airborne, as CityLab reports. The pavement can expand under hot conditions, and when this happens quickly—as it did on Highway 36 and Interstate 90—segments of the road smash together and the roadway buckles. Last week’s spike in heat caused the surface temperature of the road to hit between 120 and 125 degrees, according to the state DOT — plenty hot enough to stress out the roadways in Minnesota and neighboring South Dakota, which saw similar buckling. Buckling could be an indication of the hot and bumpy ride to come.
> The Guardian: Could We Set Aside Half The Earth For Nature? (Jeremy Hance). If we don’t change our ways, we will witness a mass extinction event that will not only leave our world a far more boring and lonely place, but will undercut the very survival of our species. E.O. Wilson, one of the world’s most respected biologists, has proposed a radical, wild and challenging idea to our species: set aside half of the planet as nature preserves. Wilson writes in his new book, Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life. One of the world’s most respected biologists, Wilson is known as the father of sociobiology, a specialist in island biogeography, an expert on ant societies and a passionate conservationist. “We are still too greedy, shortsighted, and divided into warring tribes to make wise, long-term decisions,” Wilson warns in Half-Earth.
> Star Tribune: School’s Out. Now, For A Summer Before A Mind-Dimming Smartphone (Thomas Johnson). A teacher in the Minneapolis School District offers his assessment of students’ addiction to smartphone technology. He dreads the negative effects on students’ young minds from spending much of their free time staring passively at a screen, rather than engaging in the real world. He urges parents to create regular phone-free periods, limit their personal use as role models, and take periodic electronics-free vacations.
> The Washington Post: The Atmosphere Has Hit A Grim Milestone — And Scientists Say We’ll Never Go Back ‘Within Our Lifetimes’ (Chris Mooney). Scientists who measure and forecast the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere said Monday that we may have passed a key turning point. Humans walking the Earth today will probably never live to see carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere once again fall below a level of 400 parts per million (ppm), at least when measured at the iconic Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, where the longest global record of CO2 has been compiled. What the new study suggests is that those days are over — carbon dioxide will never fall below 400 ppm this year—nor the next, nor the next. The reason is that the strong 2015-2016 El Niño event has pushed concentrations upward more than usual for a given year.
> Think Progress: Greenland Hits Record 75°F, Sets Melt Record As Globe Aims At Hottest Year (Joe Romm). Last Thursday, Greenland’s capital hit 75°F, which was hotter than New York City. This was the highest temperature ever recorded there in June — in a country covered with enough ice to raise sea levels more than 20 feet, It comes hot on the heels of the hottest May on record for the entire globe, according to NASA. As the map above shows, May temperature anomalies in parts of the Arctic and Antarctic were as high as 17°F (9.4°C) above the 1951-1980 average for the month. And this all follows the hottest April on record for the planet, which followed the hottest March on record, the hottest February on record, and the hottest January on record. NASA says there is a 99 percent chance this will be the hottest year on record — even though the current record-holder for hottest year, 2015, had blown out the previous record-holder, 2014.
> Climate Central: Climate Impacts From Farming Are Getting Worse (John Upton). As signs emerge that the global energy sector is beginning to rein in what once had been unbridled levels of climate-changing pollution, new United Nations figures show pollution from farming is continuing to get worse. Greenhouse gases released from the growing of crops and livestock directly increased by a little more than 1 percent in 2014, compared with a year prior, the newly updated data shows. A growing global appetite for meat, particularly in countries whose economies are growing quickly, is helping to drive the growth in agricultural emissions of methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas. More than half of farming’s direct climate impact in 2014 was caused by methane released by cows and other large livestock and from their manure.
> Reslience: It’s Happening: 2016 Is The Year Of Climate Disobedience (Kara Moses). We’re only half way through it, but 2016 is a record-breaking year. The second week of May was extraordinarily spectacular, with records being smashed left right and center. As tens of thousands of people took direct action in the biggest ever global wave of civil disobedience targeting the world’s largest fossil fuel infrastructure projects, energy produced from renewables soared to new heights while coal collapsed to an all-time low, multiple global temperatures records were smashed by the biggest margins ever and Arctic sea ice fell to its lowest ever extent for May.
> Grist: France Ratifies U.N. Climate Deal. Your Move, Rest Of World. (Clayton Aldern). France has become the first global power to formally join the U.N. climate deal, after it was negotiated in Paris late last year. While 177 parties have signed the deal at the U.N. headquarters in New York so far, only 17 have gone all the way by ratifying the text in their home countries. To kick the agreement into action, 55 parties accounting for at least 55 percent of global emissions will need to ratify it. There’s a catch with the French ratification, too: It won’t count for anything if the rest of Europe doesn’t do the same. The 28-member European Union negotiated and adopted the Paris Agreement as a bloc, and therefore must ratify it as such.
> Ensia: Animals To Humans: Be Quiet, Already (Elizabeth Grossman). A growing body of research looking at the impacts of anthropogenic noise on various wildlife and even organisms without ears confirms that human-made noise is harmful to wildlife. Though it rarely directly maims or kills, anthropogenic noise—including road noise—is increasingly being recognized as a form of habitat degradation and source of stress that interferes with animals’ health and wellbeing. According to scientists at the Scripps Whale Acoustic Lab, the background levels of anthropogenic ocean noise have doubled every decade over the past 60 years—from commercial ship traffic, underwater oil and gas extraction, and other industrial or military activity. Even plants can be affected by changes in the acoustic environment through what biologists and ecologists call a cascade effect. The good news is that the acoustic environment can be restored with no lingering impacts.
> Common Dreams: Landmark Study Shows Our Bodies Are Rife With Cancer-Causing Chemicals (Deirdre Fulton). The analysis from Environmental Working Group (EWG), based on more than 1,000 biomonitoring studies—which measure the burden of certain chemicals present in the human body—and other research by government agencies and independent scientists, found that up to 420 chemicals known or likely to cause cancer have been detected in blood, urine, hair, and other human samples. The presence of a toxic chemical in our bodies does not necessarily mean it will cause harm, but this report details the astounding number of carcinogens we are exposed to in almost every part of life that are building up in our systems.
> Bloomberg: The World Nears Peak Fossil Fuels for Electricity (Tom Randall). The way we get electricity is about to change dramatically, as the era of ever-expanding demand for fossil fuels comes to an end—in less than a decade. That’s according to a new forecast by Bloomberg New Energy Finance that plots out global power markets for the next 25 years. Call it peak fossil fuels, a turnabout that’s happening not because we’re running out of coal and gas, but because we’re finding cheaper alternatives. Demand is peaking ahead of schedule because electric cars and affordable battery storage for renewable power are arriving faster than expected, as are changes in China’s energy mix.
> Bloomberg: Cost Of Clean Energy Seen Nosediving Into The Next Decade (Anna Hirtenstein, Mahmoud Habboush). The cost of renewables technology is set to keep falling into the next decade, boosting the economic case for clean energy, according to an industry group. The average cost of electricity from a photovoltaic system is forecast to plunge as much as 59 percent by 2025, according to a report Wednesday by the International Renewable Energy Agency. The technology last year produced energy that was already 58 percent cheaper than it was in 2010, the Abu Dhabi-based industry group said.
> Resilience: Green Taxi Cooperative: Building An Alternative To The Corporate “Sharing Economy” (Michelle Stearn). The “Sharing Economy” is comprised of corporations like Uber and Airbnb—that don’t actually do much sharing. But real alternatives that build community and cooperative ownership are under development across the country—like Green Taxi Cooperative, an emerging worker-owned business in Denver, Colorado that just received the regulatory approval they need to launch the 800-driver strong cooperatively-owned and union-organized company. As Nathan Schneider and Trebor Scholz put it, the majority of the app-based services like Uber and Lyft provide a platform for “‘collaborative consumption,’ but not of control, real accountability, or ownership.” Green Taxi Cooperative, by rooting ownership and control with the drivers themselves, is helping bring equity and sustainability to Denver’s taxi scene.
> Shareable: The Sustainability Commons: Using Open Source Design To Address Climate Change (Cat Johnson). A growing movement that combines open source design with sustainability is creating an exciting alternative to profit-driven, proprietary sustainability products. As we face urgent issues like climate change, the ability of open source communities to quickly and inexpensively create solutions makes increasing sense. One project that clearly recognizes this big opportunity for impact is POC21, an international innovation network whose participants create open-source, sustainability-related products like the 30$ Wind Turbine, Aker (open source urban gardening infrastructure), and Faircap (open source portable water filter). Co-organized by Ouishare co-founder Benjamin Tincq, POC21 has brought together hundreds of designers, makers and organizers to “prototype the fossil free, zero waste society.”
> Reuters: From Green Slime To Jet Fuel: Algae Offers Airlines A Cleaner Future (Staff). As airlines struggle to find cleaner ways to power jets and with an industry-wide meeting on CO2 emissions just months away, scientists are busy growing algae in vast open tanks at an Airbus site at Ottobrun, near Munich. The European aerospace group is part-financing the Munich Technical University project to grow algae for biofuel and, although commercial production is a long way off, hopes are high. Algae can grow 12 times faster than plants cultivated on soil and produces an oil yield about 30 times that of rapeseed.
> Strong Towns: A Realistic Look At The Local Food Movement (Rachel Quednau). Incorporating a higher percentage of locally produced food from small-scale farms into our lives is important in the way that shopping at local businesses is important: because it keeps money in the community and it diversifies our economy. Local farms not only benefit the people who own them, but also tend to pay higher wages than huge agribusinesses, and they often treat land and crops in a more sustainable manner. The truth is that unless you live on or near a farm, or you’re willing to eat the same 5-10 ingredients each day, you’re probably not going to be able to afford a locally produced menu for every meal.
> The Archdruid Report: Retrotopia: Diminishing Returns (John Michael Greer). This is the nineteenth installment of an exploration of some of the possible futures discussed on this blog, using the toolkit of narrative fiction. Our narrator, forced to grapple with the cognitive dissonance between everything he believes about progress and the facts of life in the Lakeland Republic, tries to evade the issue for an evening—and ends up even deeper in perplexity, including a concern that technology, as a whole, might be subject to the law of diminishing returns.
SUSTAINABILITY INFO & EVENTS
> Climate Generation (Summer Institute For Climate Change Education): Patagonia Movie Night: Minnesota Stories in a Changing Climate, June 23, 7:30-9 p.m., Patagonia St. Paul, 1648 Grand Ave, St Paul, MN. Free! Contact: 612-278-7147.
> Conversation Earth: Exploring Our Place on the Planet (Dave Gardner, Interviewer). This weekly Radio Series & Podcast provides surprising perspectives from leading thinkers on the most important issues of our time.
> MN Environmental Partnership (MEP) Upcoming Environmental Events. See website: http://www.mepartnership.org/events/ (search by month)
> 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).
> Climate Lab Book: Spiraling Global Temperatures. The animated spiral presents global temperature change in a visually appealing and straightforward way. The pace of change is immediately obvious, especially over the past few decades. The relationship between current global temperatures and the internationally discussed target limits are also clear without much complex interpretation needed.
> The World Counts: World Population Clock Live – Population of the World Today. Watch the population increase minute by minute.