SEF News-Views Digest No. 154 (11-23-16)
Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher
Once again, Thanksgiving is nigh, a time to celebrate the quintessential American holiday, when we honor our natural resources, historical origins, enlightened beliefs, and creative accomplishments. It’s also a time to join with others, family members and/or friends, to share good conversation, enjoy a festive meal, and, hopefully, avoid unpleasant contentious confrontations, especially this year with the recent election results.
Bettye and I have much for which to be grateful. As multi-decade members of the privileged middle class, we’ve prospered well enough, thanks to the economic and socio-cultural opportunities that began after WWII and lasted up to the 2008 recession. In contrast, a growing number of impoverished Americans lack access to an economically secure lifestyle, a reality made clearer over the past year, as we’ve become entangled in a morass of expressed emotional negativity, including hate. Since the election, hundreds of stories have been reported of angry white citizens verbally and physically abusing minorities. Charles Eisenstein’s article (first in Views) effectively addresses the topic of hate, as expressed by both progressives and conservatives.
I think we all agree that this election cycle has brought out extremes of behavior, from the despicable behavior of hate mongers, to the exemplary behavior of empathetic goodwill exemplars. (For instance, a female friend of ours spontaneously embraced a Muslim woman last week when they passed one another in a grocery store aisle.) Of the two behavioral extremes, goodwill proponents provide the only promising approach for creating a sense of national unity and community building.
Considering the tumultuous situation we’ve experienced the past two weeks, we urgently need to promote positive solutions for assuaging the harm caused by so much negativity. Two suggestions come to mind. First, since every religion and belief system seems to recognize the moral dictum “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (“Treat others as you wish to be treated”), what if people of good agreed to promote adoption of the Golden Rule as the worldwide standard for ethical and moral behavior? Second, regardless of the belief system one holds—atheist, agnostic, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, or whatever—how would it work for to encourage everyone to profess, “I believe in GOOD (goodness)”? I’d like to believe that these two simple guidelines could help unify diverse peoples into pursuing common goals.
Finally, as we celebrate this Thanksgiving Day, let’s give thanks for diversity, and freedom of thought and expression, with the goal of becoming more empathetic, more understanding, and more civil in dealing with persons holding views with which we disagree. May we also, individually and collectively, express our deepest gratitude for being alive at this challenging time in human history, and especially thankful for the benefits of living in a free society. And while we’re expressing gratitude, let’s also remember to thank all persons affiliated with organizations that promote sustainability of our natural resources, from land, water, and air to plants, animals, and people.
Here’s wishing you a joyful thanksgiving holiday!
> Yes! Magazine: Please Stop Thinking You’re Better Than Trump Supporters (Charles Eisenstein). We are entering a time of great uncertainty, when traditional institutions may lose their legitimacy and dissolve. The blame-the-racists narrative generates a clear demarcation between good (us) and evil (them), but it does violence to the truth and employs the same dehumanization of the other that is the essence of racism and the precondition for war. As we enter a period of intensifying disorder, it is important to introduce a different kind of force to animate the structures that might appear after the old ones crumble. So let’s start with empathy, which is akin to solidarity, born of the understanding that we are all in this “uncertainty” together, a space between stories. We’ve got to stop acting out hate, which exists as much in the liberal media as in the right-wing media, just better disguised. When people lose the hate, they are forced to deal with the pain beneath. It is time to stop feeding hate.
> New Internationalist: When All Bets Are Off (Dan Smith). Once again, odds have been defied, opinion polls disproven, and what many people long thought was politically marginal and outside the realm of possibility has become mainstream and a fact. Of a few things, we can be sure, however, and to them we must hold tight. Facts matter. Dialogue works. Tolerance heals. First, facts matter more than perception alone; truth counts more than untruth; facts are not a value but respect for them is. Second, we need more attention to the values embedded in dialogue, including political civility. Third, we need tolerance for different points of view. Finally, in combining these three, we need the propensity to think that thought also matters. In these difficult times, we only really have a chance to defend gains that have been made for peace, prosperity and reducing the damage we do to nature, and we can only make a new start towards a better future if we stick by some core values.
> The Archdruid Report: When The Shouting Stops (John Michael Greer). I know some fairly thoughtful people whose reaction to the election’s outcome consisted of various degrees of shock, disorientation, and fear. One factor at work here is the very strong tendency of people on the leftward end of American politics to believe in what I’ve elsewhere called the religion of progress—the faith that history has an inherent tilt toward improvement, and more to the point, toward the particular kinds of improvement they prefer. To judge by what I’ve heard them [the disenchanted] say, they want a less interventionist foreign policy and an end to the endless spiral of wars of choice in the Middle East; they want health insurance that provides reasonable benefits at a price they can afford; they want an end to trade agreements that ship American jobs overseas, and changes to immigration policy that stop the systematic importation of illegal immigrants by big corporate interests to drive down wages and benefits; and they want a means of choosing candidates that actually reflects the will of the people [Greer thinks Sanders would have won had he been the Democratic candidate].
> Peak Prosperity: We’re Being Played (Chris Martenson). The explosion of emotions triggered by the recent presidential election caught many off guard. Friendships have been lost, family members estranged, and hostility has boiled over in many communities. Sadly, in many cases people have simply been manipulated in traumatic fashion and we’re now dealing with the emotional and social repercussions. Emotional programming is happening right now and will continue to bombard us, and humans are highly susceptible because they’re unaware of it. Subliminal advertising and propaganda are alive and well today. The art and science of social control has been faithfully advanced and deployed to sell you a lot more than shoes and soda. So staying in control of ‘your’ thoughts and emotions is as simple, and as hard, as being aware of the efforts to sway and/or implant ideas in your head and then avoiding those efforts as much as possible.
> Resource Insights: Trump: America’s Pilot-In-Chief In The Post-Ecological Age (Kurt Cobb). Many Americans are frightened by the idea of Donald Trump as the country’s new pilot-in-chief, fearing he’ll crash the airliner of state (including climate and environmental policies). For those living in America’s small towns and rural areas and for those in the downwardly mobile working class, their plane has already crashed! I also noted in another piece that both major U.S. presidential candidates—while differing on environmental issues such as climate change—embraced speeding up economic growth. My conclusion in this much older piece is that what U.S. political parties differ on ecologically speaking is not whether we should protect the long-term habitability of the biosphere for humans, but rather at what pace we should undermine that habitability for short-term gains, both political and economic. This is what I mean when I say we have a pre-ecological politics in a post-ecological age.
> Resilience: The Growth Trap (Charles St. Pierre). Every economy, every self-organizing system, which is not also self-limiting within the bounds set by its environment, grows until it exceeds the ability of that environment to support and sustain it. It then collapses, and the collapse of a modern economy can be expected to be catastrophic. As infrastructure is invested in and developed, the relative cost of acquiring and developing resources decreases, and growth allows the economy to exploit available resources at an accelerating rate. However, with finite resources, or even a finite average density of resources, any economy’s ability to grow is limited. Maintenance of existing infrastructure grows more expensive, as the financial economy (human construct) feeds off the real economy (nature). Mankind has yet to develop a self-limiting economy.
> Post Carbon Institute: In Conversation: Justice & Equity After Fossil Fuels (Asher Miller). Access to energy confers wealth—and power. As our energy system goes through a profound transformation away from fossil fuels, there will no doubt be winners and losers. The transition to 100% renewable energy raises profound questions for the future of justice and equity. On November 10, 2016, Asher Miller (Post Carbon Institute) was joined by Miya Yoshitani (Asian Pacific Environmental Network) and Timothy Den-Herder Thomas (Cooperative Energy Futures) for a thoughtful exploration about how to ensure the renewable energy future is more just than the fossil fuel present. View the recording or Click here to view the Live Chat transcript.
> Resilience: The True Cost Of Food (Patrick Holden). Food production has multiple impacts both on and off the farm. These can often be negative, such as the pollution of rivers, the emission of greenhouse gases, the spread of antibiotic resistance, the degradation of soil, the rise of obesity and the spread of disease. Yet none of this damage has featured in the balance sheet of farmers using chemical methods. Although these costs are not reflected in the price of food, consumers are paying in other hidden ways, such as through taxes, health care costs, pollution cleanup and water rates. There are also deferred costs, including emissions causing climate change, which will have to be paid for by subsequent generations.
> Reuters: Trump Threat Fires Up U.S. Climate Activists, Draws In More (Lalla Kearney). The silver lining of Trump’s electoral victory: Environmentally minded people angered by the outcome are rallying to their cause. Some of the well-established national environmental organizations that helped draft the Obama administration’s environmental initiatives, like the Clean Power Plan to curb carbon dioxide emissions, will be shifting to a defensive posture under Trump’s leadership. Several groups also said they would put a greater focus on state-level environmental initiatives to sidestep Trump’s administration. The Sierra Club, which is headquartered in California, said it would push ahead with its Beyond Coal campaign, which has led to the retirement of hundreds of coal plants since it was launched more than a decade ago.
> Common Dreams: Unified Against Trump Threat, World Vows To Push Ahead On Climate Action (Lauren McCauley). Underscoring the “climate pariah” that the United States is expected to become under a President-elect Donald Trump, world leaders concluded the United Nations climate talks on Friday by re-committing to the goals of the Paris accord and vowing to take swift action to reduce global emissions. “We call for the highest political commitment to combat climate change, as a matter of urgent priority,” reads the Marrakech Action Proclamation (pdf), which was signed by 196 countries. Additionally, 47 of the world’s most climate vulnerable nations pledged to “meet 100 percent domestic renewable energy production as rapidly as possible.”
> New York Times: U.S. Companies To Trump: Don’t Abandon Global Climate Deal (Hiroko Tabuschi). In a plea addressed to Mr. Trump—as well as President Obama and members of Congress—365 companies and major investors emphasized their “deep commitment to addressing climate change,” and demanded that he leave in place low-emissions policies in the United States. “Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk,” the companies said in a joint letter announced on Wednesday in Marrakesh, Morocco, where global leaders are determining the next steps for the Paris deal. “But the right action now will create jobs and boost U.S. competitiveness. ”The companies also said that they would push ahead with their own targets to reduce their carbon footprints regardless of steps taken by Mr. Trump once he is in office.
> Huffington Post: White House Unveils Bold Climate Change Plan Before Trump Takes Over (Nick Visser). Under the newly released strategy, which aims to rapidly “decarbonize” America, emissions would be slashed about 80 percent by 2050, compared with levels set in 2005. The U.S. has already promised a 26 percent to 28 percent cut in emissions by 2025 and would build on those pledges through a transition to renewable energy production, carbon removal technology and efforts to curb emissions from agriculture and other sources. Nearly 200 nations are signed on to the Paris climate agreement, which aims to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, the level scientists say the planet must stay beneath to avoid the worst effects of climate change. World leaders have been assuaging the public since the election, vowing to continue plans to curb emissions with or without the U.S.
> The Guardian: Keep It In The Ground: 2016 Likely To Be Hottest Year On Record, UN Says (Damian Carrington). 2016 will very likely be the hottest year on record and a new high for the third year in a row, according to the UN. It means 16 of the 17 hottest years on record will have been this century. The scorching temperatures around the world, and the extreme weather they drive, mean the impacts of climate change on people are coming sooner and with more ferocity than expected, according to scientists. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report, published at the global climate summit in Morocco, found the global temperature in 2016 is running 1.2C above pre-industrial levels. This is perilously close to to the 1.5C target included as an aim of the Paris climate agreement last December. (See also: ‘It Was Too Hot, Even To Leave Home’: Stories From The World’s Hottest Year, from drought-hit Nigeria to wine-growing Finland, we hear from people whose lives have already been changed by a warming world.)
> The Guardian: Trump Could Reverse ‘Dramatic’ Progress On Clean Energy, Experts Fear (Oliver Milman). A huge shift to clean energy is under way in the US but the election of Donald Trump as president means progress could be reversed unless cities and states do more, energy experts have warned. Renewable energy has been spurred by federal tax incentives for wind and solar as well as the plummeting cost of turbines and solar panels. Global market forces, which have hurt the coal and oil industries, have also opened the way for natural gas and, to a lesser degree, renewables. Despite these trends, Trump has called for “American energy independence” and the elimination of clean energy programs that have no “measurable effect on the Earth’s climate”. The next president has questioned the reality of human-caused global warming and is considering a number of fossil fuel executives and climate change deniers for key administration posts.
> Washington Post: Stunningly Good News For The Planet: Carbon Emissions Were Flat For Third Straight Year (Chris Mooney). The news comes from the Global Carbon Project, a group of scientists who measure how much carbon dioxide humans emit each year, as well as how much is subsequently absorbed by plants, land surfaces and oceans. The difference between the two determines the amount of carbon dioxide that remains in the atmosphere and drives global warming. The group reports that 2016 appears to be similar to 2014 and 2015, based on early projections. This leveling is attributable to a decline in emissions in China and the United States, the two largest emitters, partly a result of less coal burning. But some countries are emitting more CO2, such as India, which had a 5.2 percent emissions growth in 2015. However, cessation of growth is very different from a decline. As the study notes, emissions today are “still 63% above emissions in 1990.”
> EE News: LAW: D.C. Circuit May Be Bulwark Against Enviro Rule Changes (Amanda Reilly). A panel of judges in Washington, D.C., that leans liberal could give environmental advocates one bright spot in the next four years under a Trump administration that has pledged to undo a host of Obama administration regulations. President Obama is leaving the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit with a 7-4 liberal tilt among its roster of active judges. That figure includes Chief Judge Merrick Garland, who has recused himself from cases while his nomination to the Supreme Court is pending. Even though all eyes have been on the vacancy in the Supreme Court, the high court justices typically choose to take up only a small percentage of cases. That makes the D.C. appellate court, which has exclusive jurisdiction over many environmental matters, especially important for the future of regulation no matter who fills the empty Supreme Court seat.
> Ensia: 12000 U.S. Schools Are Within A Mile Of A Hazardous Chemical Facility (Elizabeth Grossman). A Center for Effective Government analysis published early this year found that nearly one in 10 U.S. children—4.9 million children—go to the approximately 12,000 schools nationwide that are within one mile (1.6 kilometers) of a facility that uses or stores dangerous chemicals. These are industrial sites using chemicals that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers hazardous enough to require the companies have emergency plans in place in case of toxic chemical release or other dangerous incident. There is no federal law or regulation that restricts or otherwise specifies how close schools can be to facilities that use or store hazardous materials. Currently, the entire issue of environmental hazards that affect schools is addressed by a patchwork of local laws and voluntary initiatives.
> Ars Technica: What Might Have Been: US Introduces Plan For “Deep Decarbonization” (John Timmer). As Donald Trump is preparing to roll back progress on emissions, the Obama administration described plans for cutting carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.The report notes the US has now severely weakened the link between economic growth and carbon emissions. The report proposes that, by 2050, the US grid will be supplied primarily by a mix of renewables (55 percent) and nuclear (17 percent). Of the fossil plants that remain in operation, 20 percent will be fitted with carbon-capture-and-storage technology. The report favors market-based solutions driven by government incentives. The plan includes ways to offset the remaining emissions, primarily by using a massive reforestation program. Beyond that, the plan calls for a more efficient use of cropland and integration of bioenergy crops and carbon sequestration in a way that’s not disruptive for traditional agriculture.
> Yes! Magazine: The Hopeful Thing About Our Ugly, Painful Polarization (George Lakey). Our extreme polarization is political, economic, and social—but individuals feel it on a personal level. Even if polarization is unlikely to go away soon, the good news is that if Americans can respond to this period creatively, it may be an opportunity for progress. Scholars have found that political polarization seemed to be intimately linked to income inequality, which began increasing in the 1970s-‘80s, so it’s no surprise that the economic crash of 2007 has accelerated inequality along with political polarization. Sweden, Denmark, and Norway dealt effectively with social polarization that peaked pre-WW II, using responses that had many dimensions, but four major ones: cooperative ownership models, wide agreement among the Left on a vision, inclusivity, and commitment to a nonviolent strategy, which also worked well in the U.S. with the 1960s civil rights movement. An Era of Change will require a grassroots movement using similar strategies.
> Seedstock: Farming Formerly Vacant Lots, Urban Ag Program Grows New Farmers And Fresh Produce For Food Deserts (Bethany Knipp). Founded in 2014, the West Sacramento Urban Farm Program is an initiative of the agricultural education nonprofit Center for Land-Based Learning, headquartered in Winters, California. The program converts vacant lots in urban West Sacramento neighborhoods to increase food access, and support production of fresh fruits and vegetables. Once leased, The Urban Farm Program develops and remediates the sites for future farmers. At the same time as it seeks to provide an agricultural oasis in a food desert, the Urban Farm Program works to support the development of new urban farmers who would otherwise struggle to gain access to and afford farmland. So far, the program has attracted a younger demographic between the ages of 20 and 40.
> Star Tribune: St. Olaf Embraces Wind Power – 100 Percent (Paul Walsh). St. Olaf College’s many dozens of buildings on its Northfield campus are now being powered entirely by wind energy, the liberal arts school and Xcel Energy announced . By choosing Xcel’s Windsource program for its electrical service starting at the beginning of this semester, St. Olaf becomes the utility’s largest Windsource customer in the state. With Windsource, the 3,000-student St. Olaf will avoid 7,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, or the equivalent of taking more than 1,300 cars off the road yearly. Additionally, the college is a large subscriber to community solar gardens.
> Politico: America’s First All-Renewable-Energy City (Mark Peterson). Burlington, VT provides a workable model for how a city, state, or nation can gain become energy self-sufficiency, thanks largely to Bernie Sanders, who, as former mayor of Burlington, played a major role in making this possible. Because of Burlington’s green ethos and because Vermont offers a variety of incentives for customers to invest in solar, Burlington is likely to see new renewable energy industry changes early. But it’s also the perfect sandbox—a small city that owns its own grid, power generation and public fiber-optic data network—and the utility is ready to pioneer the development of the technology and policies to make it all work.
> The Story of Stuff: Coworking, Cooperating, And Coming Together: The “New Better Off” Life Looks Pretty Darn Good (Andrea Newell). Courtney Martin, columnist for On Being, has released a new book, The New Better Off: Reinventing the American Dream. In it she examines how upcoming generations can be “better off” than their parents as we all continue to recover from an economic crisis, have lost the safety net of “job security,” and many of the traditional ways we have always looked at work, family, and happiness have been turned upside down. She says that “better off” is “about creating a life where what you do every single day, the way you spend your precious time, energy, money, lines up as closely as possible with what you believe. It’s about building community, not acquiring Stuff or status. And it’s about abandoning fragmentation (work/life) and choosing to show up whole instead.”
> Resilience: Walking Picks Up Speed (Jay Walljasper). As life grows ever more challenging, with concerns about health and the future nagging at us, one solution can be as simple as taking a walk. That’s the reassuring news from US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, who last year declared “physical activity is one of the best things Americans can do to improve their health and walking is an easy way to get moving” in his landmark Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities. He added that the benefits go beyond health. “It brings business districts to life and can help reduce air pollution.” Millions of Americans are now discovering that walking is good for our health, our social lives, our communities, our economic prospects and our overall happiness.
> Electrek: Tesla’s Solar Roof To Cost Less Than A Regular Roof (Fred Lambert). Elon Musk made quite the announcement last Thursday. During the special shareholders meeting to approve the merger with SolarCity, which they approved by 85%, he said that he was coming back from a meeting with the SolarCity engineering team about the solar roof and that he now feels confident that they could deliver the product at a lower cost than a regular roof—even before energy production. And it’s an incredibly bold claim, since if it turns out to be true no homeowner would have any reason not to choose a solar roof when buying a new roof. Tesla expects to start producing the solar roof in volume starting next year. The company unveiled 4 different versions of the product and it plans to release them one or two at a time starting in 2017.
> Climate Reality: 24 Hours Of Reality: The Road Forward, Worldwide events promoting climate change solutions, ; mark your calendars.
> 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/
> Alliance For Sustainability: Linking Citizens, Congregations And Cities For Sustainable Communities. See Projects: http://www.afors.org/
> Post Carbon Institute: Six Foundations For Building Community Resilience. Download a free PDF copy of an informative, well-researched and formatted handbook.
> National Geographic: Before The Flood Documentary & Years of Living Dangerously. Watch “Before The Flood” via streaming; narrated by actor-environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio. Link: Leonardo DiCaprio “Before the Flood” Full Movie (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N26b4lgWMVI); also,
> USA Today: New Climate Publication (A 40-page publication featuring a variety of articles related to climate change; http://ee.usatoday.com/emag/Default.aspx?href=USAM%2F2016%2F09%2F19&pageno=1&view=document)
> 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, Seminars & Presentations; Several offerings: News Flash; Newsletter; Information Services; OLLI Course Hand-outs; Best Practices; Buy The Book (Lethal Trajectories)
> 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
> World Population Balance: Listen To Our Overpopulation Podcast! Several podcasts on the topic of overpopulation and its effects on the quality of life on Earth.
> Population Growth: Population Clock – Poodwaddle World Clock. 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