SEF News-Views Digest No. 148 (10-12-16)
Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher
A populist movement is underway in America, and it’s spreading worldwide. More and more citizens are expressing deep dissatisfaction with 1) dysfunctional government (especially at the national level); 2) the increasing political and economic influence wielded by giant corporations and billionaires; 3) the widening gap between the top income earners and everyone else, resulting in a declining middle class; 4) the conflict of science-based data and socio-cultural-religious beliefs; 5) the ongoing expression of injustice among minority groups, as evidenced by recurring conflicts between black communities and police over unjustified profiling. In general, all citizens are caught up in the war of ideas that’s being fought in a worldwide arena by conservatives and progressives, made ominously obvious in the current US presidential race. For us senior citizens, it’s impossible to recall any previous presidential race that has been so inexplicable, so . . . weird!
Although we have little control over the national elections, we do have some influence as voters on local and state levels. For instance, in our Minnesota district 41 (A, B), we are fortunate to have some strong candidates, all of whom are supportive of sustainability issues. Bettye and I have become acquainted with three of our local politicians: Senate candidate Carolyn Laine (former House representative); Mary Kunesh-Podein, candidate for House, replacing Carolyn); and Connie Bernardy (continuation in House). Also, at a recent political event, we met Mary Jo McGuire, Ramsey County Commissioner (District 2). We are proud to endorse these sustainability-committed candidates in the coming election. (See photo of all four)
The upcoming national elections represent a very significant opportunity for moving our country towards greater sustainability. But this will happen only if we elect leaders who are dedicated to working on behalf of the common good—for all citizens. Appropriate sustainability guidelines to consider in electing leaders might include how a candidate proposes to address these issues: climate change and its potential effects; conserving and protecting the natural environment (flora, fauna, water sources); supporting renewable energy sources; reducing overall material consumption, including energy use; adopting cradle-to-cradle use, reuse, and recycling of manufactured materials; creating a stable, low-debt economy that’s more locally based and creates equal opportunities for all citizens to enjoy safe, comfortable (not extravagant) lifestyles; and, finally, willing to work across party lines to achieve worthwhile goals that address serving the common good.
In most races, I think it’s obvious which local and national candidates are committed to addressing the concerns listed above. Now it’s up to us to see that these candidates receive our enthusiastic, positive support, by voting—and providing financial support, each according to his or her means. The countdown to November 8th is underway. Please vote!
> Resource Insights: Donald Trump And The Impossible Destination Of Globalization(Kurt Cobb). Disaffected, downwardly mobile American workers are the ones keeping the presidential race very close, a race that few thought would ever be close just a few weeks ago. And, some want to go back to retrieve what they and their communities—often small and rural ones—have lost to the globalist onslaught in the last two decades. One million humans living as we do today would not likely undermine the habitability of the planet, for humans at least. When 7 billion live in this way, our combined effect has made us the dominant force on the planet so much so that we have created a new geologic age: the Anthropocene. The idea that we can expand globalism to any size we choose was discredited long before now. The destination offered by globalism no longer features prosperity and stability for all, but a ruinous decline. And yet, our politics and our public discourse speak as if we can still go there.
> MPR: What’s The Future Look Like For Wilderness And Wildlife(MPR Staff; Tom Weber podcast). The future of wilderness and of the animals that live in it is uncertain in Minnesota and across the globe because of human activity. This week, three University of Minnesota experts will gather to talk about how humans are affecting the wild and what the latest research tells us about how to fix some of the problems we’ve created. How, for example, do you make sure there are still lions decades from now? How does climate change fit in? And what will “wilderness” mean for future generations? Their talk is called, “Where the Wild Things Aren’t,” and it’s part of a series the U is calling “The Petri Dish.”
> Common Dreams: If Nature Is Sacred, Capitalism Is Wicked (Jake Johnson). Naomi Klein, in her latest book (This Changes Everything), argues that an economic order predicated on the relentless pursuit of profit is incompatible with a world in which natural resources are used with the necessary care and restraint. Terrifyingly, capitalism is winning. Under capitalism, everything is a business opportunity—catastrophes, from tsunamis to wars, are no exception. In fact, as Klein documented in her earlier book—The Shock Doctrine—business leaders don’t view disasters as problems to be solved; rather, they see them as circumstances of which they must take advantage. But capitalism does not merely wait on the sidelines for these opportunities to arise. “An economic system that requires constant growth, while bucking almost all serious attempts at environmental regulation, generates a steady stream of disasters all on its own, whether military, ecological or financial.”
> Resilience: The Fallacy Of Economic Growth (Yavor Tarinski). We are being told that we need still more economic growth in order to overcome the present multi-layer crises. Actually we have been hearing this for quite some time now. Both right and left, capitalist and socialist governments, offer their theories about how we need more production and consumption, in order for our societies to progress and overcome the present difficulties. But a question arises—isn’t our economy already more than big enough? Our production and consumption levels are already outgrowing our planet’s biocapacity by nearly 60% each year. This constant process of large-scale resource extraction and consumption has triggered a severe degradation of nature. The rejection of economic growth does not mean a retreat to primitivism, but rather a different use and understanding of what we already have and will acquire in the future.
> Common Dreams: US At The Crossroads: Start A New Nuclear Arms Race, Or Address Climate Change And Human Needs? (Kevin Martin). The U.K.-based Global Challenges Foundation calculates Americans are five times more likely to die in a “human extinction event” such as nuclear war, climate change-driven catastrophe or pandemic, than to die in a car crash. One prominent climate scientist thinks humanity may not survive past 2030, from climate change and the resulting breakdown in our food and water supply, and social order. The CIA and Pentagon clearly state climate change is helping drive armed conflict in many regions, like Syria, and expect it to get worse. The amount of money we’re about to squander on a New Nuclear Arms Race, projected at $1 trillion over thirty years, is indefensible. Our tax dollars and focus need to be on protecting life on Earth, not threatening its extinction.
> The Archdruid Report: The Myth Of The Anthropocene (John Michael Greer). Greer suggests that the proposed usage of “Anthropocene” for humanity’s time on earth is a mistake, that it should go into whatever circular file holds scientific terms that didn’t turn out to represent realities. He gives a brief overview of historical geology, including all eras, periods, etc., and suggests that future intelligent species on earth a 100 million years from now might study a quarter-inch stratum of rock that holds the physical history of humanity’s industrial-age consumption. He says, “In place of the misleading label “Anthropocene,” then, I’d like to propose that we call the geological interval we’re now in the Pleistocene-Neocene transition. Neocene? That’s Greek for “new recent,” representing the “new normal” that will emerge when our idiotic maltreatment of the planet that keeps us all alive brings the “old normal” crashing down around our ears”.
> Yes! Magazine: The Elephant In The Room: What Trump, Clinton, And Even Stein Are Missing (David Korten). In this most bizarre of presidential elections, no one is talking about one of the biggest issues—if not the biggest—of our time; namely, the global power imbalance between corporations and governments. The more dependent we become on money, the more dependent we become on the money masters—bankers and corporations—that control our access to money through their control of paid employment, loans, and investments. We now live in servitude to money masters, who organize globally beyond the reach of democratic institutions and deny responsibility for or accountability to the people and communities they hold hostage. From their position of separation, power, and privilege, they buy politicians, avoid taxes, and take over the institutions of media, education, health care, agriculture, criminal justice, communications, energy, and more.
> Inside Climate Change: Removing CO2 From The Air Only Hope For Fixing Climate Change, Study Says (Zahra Hirji). The only way to keep young people from inheriting a world reeling from catastrophic climate change is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions dramatically and immediately, according to a new paper. Not only that, but it’s also necessary to aggressively remove greenhouse gas that’s already accumulated. The study’s 12 authors, led by prominent climate scientist James Hansen, the former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, call for bringing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels down to levels not recorded since the 1980s: 350 parts per million, a long standing goal of Hansen’s. The level is now above 400ppm, up more than 40 percent since before the Industrial Revolution. Many scientists reckon that 450ppm is the safe limit to avoid the worst effects of global warming.
> Democracy Now: As Earth Reaches Frightening CO2 Milestone, Bill Mckibben Calls For War On Climate Change (Interviewer, Juan Gonzales). “We are under attack from climate change—and our only hope is to mobilize like we did in WWII,” says Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, in an extended interview in our New York studio. “It’s not that we need to go to war with climate change, it’s that we are under siege.” This comes as 2016 is on track to be the hottest year ever on record and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has said if he is elected, he will weaken the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, abolish President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, promote fossil fuel exploration and recruit oil and gas executives to lead his Cabinet.
> New York Times: Poll Finds Deep Split On Climate Change. Party Allegiance Is A Big Factor (Tatania Schlossberg). Americans are deeply divided on the causes, cures and urgency of climate change, and party identification is one of the strongest predictors of individual views, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center. Just over a third of Americans say they care a great deal about climate change. Among them, 72% Democrats and 24% Republicans, including independents who say they generally lean toward one party. On other questions on climate change, Americans remain starkly divided: Nearly seven of 10 Democrats believe climate change is mainly a result of human activity, but fewer than a quarter of Republicans believe that. According to some scientists who study public perceptions of climate change, the United States is unusual in its relatively low level of public interest and engagement. More than 90 percent of climate scientists agree that human activity causes climate change.
> Think Progress: The Paris Agreement Is Really Happening — And It’s About More Than Climate Change (Gwynne Taraska). A wave of support from countries around the world has now set up the Paris Agreement — a historic global pact to curb greenhouse gas pollution and build resilience to climate change — to take effect in early November 2016. But participation in the agreement, which was negotiated by more than 190 countries in December 2015, is not only critical for the planet. It is also critical for the trust among nations that has supported many thousands of international agreements with the United States — on topics from defense to environmental protection and from atomic energy to economic cooperation. At least 55 countries must officially join, and the countries must account for at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Several countries, including the United States, officially joined the agreement in September, pushing the agreement past its 55-country threshold.
> Resilience: “Anyone Who Does Not Understand What Is Going On Is Not In The Right Place” (Jeremy Leggett). September began with the USA and China symbolically ratifying the Paris Agreement in time for the G20 Summit. Many businesses need no further persuasion of the writing on the wall. Six hundred multinational companies are now factoring the Paris Agreement into their business plans, according to CDP. Unsurprisingly, utilities and other energy companies lead, but adopters span many sectors. Sign-ups to the corporate 100% renewable power campaign this month include Apple. With global temperatures rising fast, leading climate campaigner Pope Francis is among the many voices rightly calling for more, faster. All is not plain sailing, inevitably, as the energy markets continue experiencing ups and downs.
> The Washington Post: The U.S. Is Getting Closer To Hillary Clinton’s Vision Of A ‘Clean Energy Superpower’ (Chelsea Harvey). A new report by the Department of Energy is the latest in of an annual series analyzing the progress of clean energy in the U.S.—specifically the growth in wind turbines, solar technology, electric vehicles and LEDs, and the reduction in their costs. And this year’s update is a rosy one: Costs are down, installations are up and emerging technologies like smart buildings and grid-connected batteries are moving up on the horizon. Much of the recent growth can likely be attributed to dramatic price reductions for each of the featured technologies. The report also looks to emerging technologies that may continue to either reduce our total energy use or aid in the expansion of renewables. High on the list is a need for improved energy storage in the form of grid-connected batteries.
> Climate Central: Ethanol In U.S. Gas Tanks Is Backfiring For Climate Change (John Upton). A team of researchers at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul has concluded that for every three gallons of corn ethanol that’s being burned under America’s flagship renewable fuel rules, Americans will avoid burning just one gallon of gasoline made from crude. Their findings add to evidence that the mandated use of biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard, which was approved by Congress and is overseen by the EPA, is making the problem of global warming worse—while doing little to ease fuel imports. Biofuels contain less energy than fossil fuels, so more must be burned to travel the same number of miles. And increasing the production of an alternative fuel helps make fossil fuels cheaper, tempering the reductions in fossil fuel demand—the so-called Fuel Rebound Effect.
> Star Tribune: Mighty Mississippi River Faces Mounting Environmental Effects (Josephine Marcotty). In the last five years, the Upper Mississippi watershed has lost about 400 square miles of forests, marshes and grasslands—natural features that cleanse and refresh its water—to agriculture and urban development. That’s an area bigger than Voyageurs National Park and represents the second fastest rate of land conversion in the country, according to one national study. That breathtaking transformation is now endangering the cleanest stretch of America’s greatest river with farm chemicals, depleted groundwater and urban runoff. At this rate, conservationists warn, the Upper Mississippi—a recreational jewel and the source of drinking water for millions of Minnesotans—could become just another polluted river. Aquifers are also being affected, and are particularly vulnerable to nitrate pollution.
> The Guardian: ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ Far Bigger Than Imagined, Aerial Survey Shows (Oliver Milman). A reconnaissance flight taken in a modified C-130 Hercules aircraft found a vast clump of mainly plastic waste at the northern edge of what is known as the “great Pacific garbage patch”, located between Hawaii and California. The density of rubbish was several times higher than the Ocean Cleanup, a foundation part-funded by the Dutch government to rid the oceans of plastics, expected to find even at the heart of the patch, where most of the waste is concentrated. The heart of the garbage patch is thought to be around 1m sq km (386,000 sq miles), with the periphery spanning a further 3.5m sq km (1,351,000 sq miles). Following a further aerial survey through the heart of the patch on Sunday, the Ocean Cleanup aims to tackle the problem through a gigantic V-shaped boom, which would use sea currents to funnel floating rubbish into a cone.
> Market Watch: Forget ‘Too Big To Fail’ — The New Concern Is Banks Too Weak To Survive (Greg Robb). According to the International Monetary Fund, about a third of European banks, with $8.5 trillion in assets, and a quarter of U.S. banks, with $3.2 trillion in assets, are in a too-weak-to-recover category. Overall, bank balance sheets in general are stronger than they were before the financial crisis. But weak bank profitability has emerged as a key challenge that won’t be solved by a cyclical recovery. While many say increases in regulatory capital played a role in weak profitability, the overall return on equity fell by 11.4% for large European banks and 3% for U.S. banks. The IMF report called for urgent and comprehensive action, stressing that reform, especially in many European countries, “can no longer be postponed.”
> WBUR Radio “7.4 Billion And Counting: Could Curbing World Population Help Cool The Planet?” (Philip Warburg). The American biologist Paul Ehrlich wrote his controversial manifesto, “The Population Bomb,” decrying the environmental and human catastrophe that awaited us if we failed to rein in population growth. That was in 1968, when 3.5 billion people inhabited the earth. Since then our numbers have doubled to more than 7.4 billion, and the UN projects we’ll reach 9.7 billion by 2050, and 11.2 billion by 2100. Some argue that we’ve managed to avert utter environmental disaster thus far, so why not continue to be fruitful and multiply without fear of future apocalypse? The best answer lies in two words: climate change. Global environmental imperatives may seem remote, but they are a necessary part of the dialogue. As an environmental priority, reining in population growth is too important to ignore. It’s time to make well-informed reproductive choice a central part of our climate change agenda.
> Common Dreams: How To Make City Streets More Friendly (Jay Walljasper). Friendly Streets Initiative (FSI) grew out of a group of volunteers working with various neighborhood organizations to make biking and walking safer in St. Paul, MN. Residents were asked for ideas, and four emphasized street improvements: 1) Better-marked crosswalks at busy intersections; 2) Traffic circles, which help slow the speed of vehicles at low-volume intersections; 3) Medians and other modifications at busy intersections, which provide refuge for pedestrians and bicyclists crossing the street; and 4) A raised intersection, and sidewalks bumping out into the streets at select locations. Here are the chief lessons of Friendly Streets Success, which can be applied in other communities around the country: 1) rethink community engagement; 2) show how new ideas work; 3) recognize how things are connected; 4) take art seriously; 5) work with the community; 6) be flexible; and 7) make it fun.
> Sustainable Food Trust: Farmers’ Markets Play A Vital Role In America’s Changing Economy (Daniel Matthews). The USDA reports the number of registered farmers’ markets increased by 2.3% from 2015 to 2016—and that’s just the ones listed in the National Farmers Market Directory. What’s driving this growth can be found in the broader state of economic affairs in the US. There’s increasing demand for organic foods and ethical business practices, reflecting a growing engagement with sustainability. In terms of demand, the USDA’s Organic Market Overview shows the market for organic food is continuing to show double-digit growth. As calls for sustainability keep escalating, expect both the DIY economy and farmers markets to continue flourishing.
> Yes! Magazine: The School That Put Local, Healthy, And Homemade On The Lunch Menu (Kaylee Domzalski). The Village School, a public charter school in Eugene, Oregon, is reinventing how a public school feeds its children, by offering one homemade, all-vegetarian lunch option each day and earning national recognition in the process. In October, the Village School won the national 2015 Golden Carrot Award from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which awards cash prizes to schools that encourage students to eat healthful foods. Students have responded favorably to their school’s effort: More than 70 percent of the 216 children—kindergarten through eighth grade—participate in the lunch program, compared to the national average of 56 percent, and nearly all of the staff participate. The Village School is among many that have altered their lunch menus in accordance with the USDA lunch program.
> Midwest Energy News: Advocates Seek To Bring Industry Into Energy Efficiency Conversation (Kari Lydersen). The national non-profit Advanced Energy Economy Institute and other advocates are trying to push the issue of industrial energy efficiency to the forefront and to involve industrial users in policy and technology efforts, including through a series of roundtable discussions with industrial customers, utilities and other stakeholders. A 2013 study commissioned by ComEd estimated that under the existing cost [spending] cap, efficiency programs in the industrial sector could reduce energy use by a cumulative 7 percent between 2013 and 2018, and by 11 percent if the cap were lifted. Energy efficiency advocates often refer to a “three-legged stool” ideal for promoting efficiency: Decoupling utility profits from energy demand, allowing utilities to fully and quickly recoup costs of efficiency programs, and offering further incentives for utilities to invest in energy efficiency.
> Ensia: If You Care About Your Health, Then You Should Care About Conservation (Rashmi Bhat). Habitat destruction has played a role in the emergence of disease organisms that move between humans and other animals, such as Ebola, and even, some scientists argue, in the increase of incidences of Lyme disease. Loss of habitat has also had the unintended consequence of eliminating access to potentially lifesaving drugs by destroying the very places where those drugs originate. Whether or not people care about nature for its own sake, these implications for human well-being should galvanize them toward habitat and wildlife conservation, and elevate conservation to the same level of importance as things such as cancer or stem cell research or efforts to eradicate malaria or HIV. Undisturbed, wild animals and their habitats can serve as a barrier preventing the spillover of emerging infectious diseases—EIDs—from animals to humans.
> Modern Farmer: Are Backyard Gardens A Weapon Against Climate Change? (Dan Nosowitz). A researcher from the University of California, Santa Barbara, David Cleveland, set out to find exactly what sorts of environmental effects gardening can have. And his findings, published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning, are bold: For every kilogram of vegetables you grow yourself, you’re reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2 kilograms, compared to buying from the store. The study’s conclusion is pretty interesting: It states that while gardening can definitely have a beneficial environmental effect over store-bought produce (with all the transportation and infrastructure that comes along with retail), it’s the little things that matter. How dense is your garden? What kind of water are you using? How are you monitoring your compost?
> Parade: Feeling Awe May Be The Secret To Health And Happiness (Paula Spencer Scott). “Awe is the feeling of being in the presence of something vast or beyond human scale, that transcends our current understanding of things,” says psychologist Dacher Keltner, who heads the University of California, Berkeley’s Social Interaction Lab. A pioneer in the study of emotions, he helped Facebook create those new “like” button emojis and consulted on Inside Out. For years, only the “big six” emotions (happiness, sadness, fear, anger, disgust, surprise) got much scientific attention. “Awe was thought of as the Gucci of the emotion world—cool if you have it, but a luxury item,” says Arizona State University psychologist Michelle Shiota. “But it’s now thought to be a basic part of being human that we all need.” Findings show that awe: 1) binds us together; 2) helps us see things anew; 3) makes us nicer—and happier; 4) alters our bodies; and 5) aids in healing mind and body. Awesome!
> Great Plains Institute: Metro CERT Annual Resource & Networking Event, Tues., October 18, 3-7 p.m., University of St. Thomas, Woulfe Alumni Hall, 2115 Summit Ave, St. Paul, Free. Info: http://www.eventbrite.
> Alliance For Sustainability: Planning for Resilient Cites Workshop, Mon., Oct. 24, 1-8:30 p.m., Wilder Foundation, 451 Lexington Parkway N., St. Paul, MN. Free: RSVP. AFS serves to Link Citizens, Congregations And Cities For Sustainable Communities. See Projects: htt
> World Population Balance: Solve World Overpopulation Potluck (Food, Conversation & a Report from WPB Staff), Sat., Oct. 29th, 6-8:30 p.m., Minneapolis Friends Meetinghouse, 4401 York Ave. S. RSVP: Email
> MN Environmental Partnership (MEP) Upcoming Environmental Events. See website: http://www.
> MN350: Climate Campaigns And Projects. For a listing of campaigns, projects, and events, see: http://www.mn350.org/
> Michael Moore: Where To Invade Next, Trailer “The American Dream” is alive elsewhere, and needs to be imported back. Countries visited and lessons learned.
> Weathering The Storm, Michael Conley, Founder-Speaker-Author, Semina
> Growthbusters: 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. Also, here are direct Links to 1st Episodes of Paving Paradise: #1 – World Population Day & Water in the West; #2 – The Local Growth Machine; #3 – Drinking the Pro-Growth Kool-Aid
> Live Population: World Population Clock Live Watch the population increase minute by minute.
> Bloomberg News: Bloomberg Carbon Clock. A real-time estimate of the global monthly atmospheric CO2 level.
> US Debt Clock: U.S. National Debt Clock: Real Time. Every aspect of the economy is documented.
> Happy Planet Index. The HPI Index measures what matters: sustainable wellbeing, life expectancy, inequality of outcomes, and ecological footprint. America limps in at a thoroughly miserable 108th. About the HPI