SEF News-Views Digest No. 155 (11-30-16)
Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher
On Black Friday, the day after celebrating Thanksgiving Day, Americans were bombarded with the media hyping a familiar seasonal jingle: “Tis the season to spend money, fol-ly, fol-ly, la—fol-ly-fa-!a!” According to media reports, many Americans spent time, energy, and money over the past weekend, caught up in the all-too-soon holiday shopping frenzy. As usual, Bettye and I refused to participate in this seasonal commercial madness, preferring instead to join more sane folk in pondering ways to promote peace and good will within our spheres of influence.
The media’s omnipresent socio-economic message exhorts citizens to buy as much as possible, with little regard for accumulating unnecessary stuff. No caution is expressed about overspending, avoiding debt, or reducing the deplorable mountains of waste materials that mar our entire natural and civilized environment. In protest, we’ll be singing: “Tis the season to be thrifty, ha-ha-ha-ha-ha—ha-ha-ha-ha!”
Moving on. Two articles I read this past week relate to economic concerns of many Americans. Two more articles also relate, but more peripherally. All articles are located at the beginning of the following Views section, in order discussed.
In the Peak Prosperity article, Adam Taggart addresses the disparity experienced by a growing number of citizens in what is perceived as a rigged economy, one that blatantly favors the rich, at the expense of middle-to-lower income folk. The future for many middle-age Americans seems bleak, with serious concerns about having sufficient savings for retirement needs, including health care. In addition to health care, younger generations are rightly concerned about having affordable educational opportunities that prepare them for sustained employment and rewarding careers.
Gaining sufficient knowledge about economics and personal finances is complicated by the trust factor. For trustworthiness, I recommend Peak Prosperity as a go-to website, thanks to founder Chris Martenson, who authored a consummate “big-picture” educational program known as The Crash Course, which can be viewed free online (Accelerated’ Crash Course) As purveyors of practical financial information, the Peak Prosperity staff provides well-researched publications (articles, videos, podcasts, and reports), in addition to information that aids in creating greater resilience and sustainability (See Take Action and Prepare). I use only the free guest information, of which there’s plenty. Paid subscribers gain access to a wider range of helpful, up-to-date information and advice.
John Michael Greer has produced yet another informative article, the latest explaining why “free trade” policies only benefit the fat cats at the top of the financial pyramid. American workers seldom benefit, and the same seems to apply worldwide. Whether or not you agree with Greer, I recommend you read his arguments opposing this controversial economic policy.
The third article, by Brian Davey, provides an explanation about how established institutions create groupthink, which accounts for all the beliefs and practices promulgated throughout society over time. Negative results may appear as mass ignorance, prejudice, and even hysteria, all of which are increasingly exhibited in the U.S. and abroad. One contributing factor is the growth of complexity, which has led to overspecialization, in turn producing experts who lack a big-picture worldview that helps explain the converging crises we’re experiencing.
The final article, by Chris Hedges, offers some keen insights regarding the widening ideological chasm between liberals and conservatives. Hedge’s explanation about how the oligarchs and corporations have maneuvered in gaining control of the economy—effectively creating the existing economic disparities experienced by a large segment of Americans—is enlightening. Unfortunately, he thinks Trump’s reign will only make for worsening conditions.
In closing, you might find the final Skeptoid article in the News section helpful in discerning the 10 worst anti-science news sources to avoid. For checking out suspicious-looking, doubtful news, a recommended website is provided, and I plan on consulting it when confronted by news or information that appears dubious. Seeking what is true in all situations and circumstances—even when it counters our most profound beliefs and perceptions—is the only hope we have for gaining personal and collective freedom.
> Peak Prosperity: The View From Under The Bus (Adam Taggart). It’s becoming clear that a large part of the sentiment behind the vote for Trump reflects a deep dissatisfaction from middle and lower-class working families, who no longer trust the empty promises sold them by a steady stream of politicians—on both side of the aisle—known to be lining their own pockets with lobbyist money, while society’s wealth shifts to crony corporations and the top 1%. In past decades, people have prepared for retirement and other major life expenses by relying on dependable Certificate of Deposits (CDs). For example, in 1984 savers received around 10% on funds parked in a bank CD, which contrasts with today’s rates of practically 0%. In The likeliest scenario from here is a recurrence of the types of losses (or worse) as seen during 2008, when asset price bubbles can no longer be sustained. Savers will see capital stored in these assets vaporize. In short: the people who can very least sustain these losses will be the ones most ravaged by them.
> Archdruid Report: The Free Trade Fallacy (John Michael Greer). Promoters of free-trade policy like to insist that abolishing trade barriers of all kinds—and allowing the free movement of goods and capital across national boundaries—is supposed to create prosperity for everyone. Quite the contrary, the results have been staggering profits for the rich, impoverishment and immiseration for the working classes, and cascading economic crises. Under free trade, the downward pressure on wages means that consumers can’t afford to spend enough to keep the economy running at a level that will absorb the available investment capital—and so the final solution to the problem of declining returns on investment arrives on schedule: the diversion of capital from productive investment into speculation [speculative bubbles]. Those problems are hardwired into any free trade system—and the only way to stop them in their tracks is to abandon free trade as bad policy, and replace it with sensible trade barriers that ensure that most of the products consumed in each nation are made there.
> Resilience: Prejudice, Ignorance And Granfalloons – Society In The Trump Era (Brian Davey). “It is a gross prejudice to think that the future will always know more than the past. Every generation is born totally ignorant, and just as we are only one failed harvest away from starvation, we are also only one failed generational transfer of knowledge away from darkest ignorance. Although it is true that today many people know many things that no one knew in the past, it is also true that large segments of the present generation are more ignorant than were large segments of past generations. The level of policy in a democracy cannot rise above the average level of understanding of the population. In a democracy the distribution of knowledge is as important as the distribution of wealth.” (Daly & Farley, Ecological Economics, Island Press, 2004, p. 41)
> Common Dreams: We Are All Deplorables (Chris Hedges). We cannot battle the racism, bigotry and hate crimes that will be stoked by the Donald Trump presidency without first battling for economic justice. This is not a gap between the tolerant and the intolerant. It is a gap between most of the American population and our oligarchic and corporate elites, which Trump epitomizes. It is a gap that is understood only in the light of the demand for economic justice. And when we start to speak in the language of justice first, and the language of inclusiveness second, we will begin to blunt the protofascism being embraced by many Trump supporters. There is no way within the system to defy the demands of Wall Street, the fossil fuel industry or war profiteers. And Trump is about to remove whatever tepid restraints are left.
> Resilience: How To Talk About Climate Change In The Age Of Trump (Jeremy L. Caradonna). The American electorate has chosen a president and vice president who believe that climate change is a hoax, that it is some kind of conspiracy against a vibrant economy. The science of climate change is extremely persuasive, and the economic ramifications of a warming planet are severely underappreciated. The struggle against climate change continues, and this discouraging election requires new attitudes, new resolve, and new tactics in the public debate on climate. Here is how those who understand climate change and its effects should approach the newly emboldened climate skeptics in the Age of Trump: 1) Avoid talking much about climate change: 2) Be concerned about human health and air pollution; 3) Be concerned about energy independence, power, and national security; 4) Realize that it’s not about science, but about worldviews; 5) Don’t ignore economic concerns; and 6) Build consensus and common ground, especially on mitigation and adaptation.
> Resilience: Climate Change Policy And The Super-Hero Syndrome (Roger Boyd). Without super-heroes we would have to accept that large-scale government intervention (like a war-style economy) will be required to fundamentally change our societies to use a lot less energy. Also, a lot less belief in “free markets”, perhaps no economic growth for a while, a ton of pressure for a more equitable sharing of income and wealth, and a lot less use of fossil fuels. No reality that the powers-that-be want, so we get the mythical super-heroes instead. Those considering Trump’s presidency disastrous do not understand that we are already experiencing a disaster. Trump may speed it up, and is certainly more “in your face”, but he is just a symptom of a larger problem, so maybe he’s a bit more truthful about his version of reality-denial. The problem is the inability of “progressives” among the powerful to accept that the time for small measures is gone, and that drastic action is required now.
> The Guardian: Arctic Ice Melt Could Trigger Uncontrollable Climate Change At Global Level (Fiona Harvey). Arctic scientists have warned that the increasingly rapid melting of the ice cap risks triggering 19 “tipping points” in the region that could have catastrophic consequences around the globe. The Arctic Resilience Report found that the effects of Arctic warming could be felt as far away as the Indian Ocean, in a stark warning that changes in the region could cause uncontrollable climate change at a global level. Temperatures in the Arctic are currently about 20C above what would be expected for the time of year, which scientists describe as “off the charts”. Sea ice is at the lowest extent ever recorded for the time of year. Climate tipping points occur when a natural system, such as the polar ice cap, undergoes sudden or overwhelming change that has a profound effect on surrounding ecosystems, often irreversible. See also: ‘Extraordinarily Hot’ Arctic Temperatures Alarm Scientists.
> Counter Currents: Climate Change Has Already Altered Nearly Every Ecosystem On Earth (Nadia Prupis). Climate change is already affecting life on Earth, despite a global temperature increase of just 1°C, according to a new study published in the journal Science recently. Nearly every ecosystem on the planet is being altered, and plants and animals are being so affected that scientists may soon be forced to intervene to create “human-assisted evolution,” the study, titled The Broad Footprint of Climate Change from Genes to Biomes to People, found. The researchers say 82 percent of “core ecological processes” on land and sea have been affected by climate change in a way that had not been expected “for decades.” “These multi-level biological impacts of climate change will affect humans. Increasing disease outbreaks, inconsistent crop yields, and reduced fisheries productivity all threaten our food security,” said co-author Dr. Tom Bridge.
> Washington Post: Trump Wants To Dump The Paris Climate Deal, But 71 Percent Of Americans Support It, Survey Finds (Chris Mooney). A new survey released by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on Monday suggests that, if Trump were to withdraw from the agreement, that may not be popular in the United States. The survey of 2,061 Americans, conducted in June, finds that 71 percent support the Paris deal, including 57 percent of Republicans. The finding, notes the Chicago Council, comports with Americans’ long-standing general support for international climate treaties, but it also somewhat masks deep disagreement about the reality and severity of climate change that persists between Democrats and Republicans. This may be good news for the activists, scientists and environmentalists who fear a much bigger battle ahead in opposing the new president on this issue.
> Carbon Brief: COP22: Key Outcomes Agreed At The UN Climate Talks In Marrakech (Sophie Yeo). The refrain of the conference soon became that the Paris Agreement, sealed last year, was bigger than any one country, or any particular head of state. The next four years will prove whether this is true. The Paris Agreement was a complete document that set out the overarching goals and framework for international climate action. But setting out the details is a longer process, which the countries participating in COP22 have decided should be completed by 2018, with a review of progress in 2017. The official outcomes of the COP were a collection of diverse documents. But some of the more substantial questions and discussions were captured in a series of “informal notes”. “Much remains to be done,” said one of the formal documents from the session, adding that countries would work “diligently and expeditiously” to complete their workload as soon as possible.
> New York Times: Perils Of Climate Change Could Swamp Coastal Real Estate (Ian Urbina). Rising sea levels are changing the way people think about waterfront real estate. Though demand remains strong and developers continue to build near the water in many coastal cities, homeowners across the nation are slowly growing wary of buying property in areas most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. A warming planet has already forced a number of industries—coal, oil, agriculture and utilities among them—to account for potential future costs of a changed climate. The real estate industry, particularly along the vulnerable coastlines, is slowly awakening to the need to factor in the risks of catastrophic damage from climate change, including that wrought by rising seas and storm-driven flooding. Property owners, developers, real estate lenders and financial institutions will be affected. Florida has six of the 10 American urban centers most vulnerable to storm surge.
> AP: EPA Chief: Progress Under Obama Won’t Be Undone By Trump (Matthew Daly). President-elect Donald Trump will not derail progress made in fighting climate change and creating clean-energy jobs, Gina McCarthy, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, insisted on Monday in arguing “the inevitability of our clean energy future is bigger than any one person or nation.” President Obama’s imposed Clean Power Plan was “designed to follow the clean-energy transition already under way,” she said, citing huge increases in wind and solar power in recent years. According to the Department of Energy, there are now more than three solar power jobs in the U.S. for every job mining coal. “I am very confident in the work we’ve done. EPA has done its job well,” McCarthy said.
> Newsok: Residents File Class-Action Suit Over Man-Made Earthquakes (AP). Residents of the town hit by Oklahoma’s worst earthquake have filed a class-action lawsuit against dozens of energy companies, accusing them of triggering dozens of temblors by injecting wastewater from oil and gas production underground. Pawnee residents filed the suit Thursday against at least 27 companies, saying they operate wastewater injection wells even though they know the method causes earthquakes. The lawsuit seeks an unidentified amount for property damage and devaluation, plus emotional distress. A magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck Pawnee in September. The lawsuit claims 52 more have hit the area since. Oklahoma has had thousands of earthquakes in recent years. Nearly all have been traced to underground wastewater disposal.
> Skeptoid: Updated: Top 10 Worst Anti-Science Web Sites (Brian Dunning). Some untrue medical or science or conspiracy claim may be found on Facebook, and to give it the appearance of authority, a web link is attached. More often as not, it turns out to be a site that specializes in terrible misinformation; and such sites are often far more popular than sites dedicated to correcting the record or presenting data. Unfortunately, pseudoscience is more sensational, compelling, and fun. Here are this year’s picks for the worst sites on the Internet: 10) Heartland.org; 9) Christiananswers.net; 8) Chopra.com; 7) Foodbabe.com; 6) Disclose.tv; 5) DoctorOz.com; 4) InfoWars.com; 3) Mercola.com; 2) History.com; and 1) NaturalNews.com. I’ll recommend one that’s equally broad in scope, and presents a science-based perspective to counter whatever nonsense angle is being promoted. That’s DoubtfulNews.com, a good bookmark for any thinking person’s web browser.
> Peak Prosperity: Prosper!: How To Prepare For The Future And How To Create A World Worth Inheriting (Chris Martenson, Adam Taggart). For perspective on where to consider placing your money, review this chapter on Financial Capital from our recent book (included free of charge). And just as important: remember that money is just one of the 8 Forms Of Capital required to build a resilient life. Be sure to invest as much time and attention to the remaining seven forms. They’re just as important to your future prosperity and happiness, and are much less susceptible to manipulation by the ruling elites.
> Organic Consumers Association: Message From Marrakesh: Don’t Mourn, Regenerate! (Ronnie Cummins). The bad news is that we are fast approaching (likely within 25 years) “the point of no return” for retaining enough climate stability, soil fertility, water and biodiversity to support human life on this planet. The good news is that tried-and-tested, shovel-ready, regenerative food, farming, grazing and land use practices, scaled up on billions of acres of farmland, pasture and forests, combined with zero emissions and a renewable energy economy, can draw down and sequester enough excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into our soils, forests and wetlands to reverse global warming. Positive outcomes include: re-stabilizing the climate; enhancing soil fertility and yields, increasing rainwater infiltration and storage in soils; supercharging food quality and nutrition; rejuvenating forests and oceans; and preserving and stimulating biodiversity—thereby addressing the underlying causes of rural poverty, hunger, deteriorating public health, political malaise and global conflict.
> WUNC-NPR: When Food Banks Say No To Sugary Junk, Schools Offer A Solution (Allison Aubrey). Some food banks are getting pickier about what they’ll accept. Earlier this year the Capital Area Food Bank announced it would “dramatically” cut back on junk food it receives and distributes. This means saying “no” to donations such as sheet cakes, holiday candy, sugary sodas and other processed, bakery items. Other food pantries are following a similar strategy. At the Share food pantry in McLean, Virginia, there’s an effort to limit how many donations of sugary calories it accepts from donors such as supermarkets and restaurants. It turns out that the elementary school across the street has become a key partner, giving the food pantry about a hundred pounds of foods each week. “It’s a win-win,” says Josh DeSmyter, Assistant Principal at the school. He says the food no longer goes to waste, and the students learn the value of helping others.
> Midwest Energy News: New Bioenergy Approach Could Mean Cleaner Water, Plus A Big Payday For Farmers (Karen Uhlenhuth). Cities and agricultural regions burdened with substantial organic waste and nutrient runoff could potentially convert their pollution into profitable industries that would both produce clean fuel and improve water quality, according to an Iowa consultant. Shashi Menon, a managing partner at EcoEngineers, said that efforts to improve water quality, if coordinated with the production of clean fuels from organic waste, would enhance the effectiveness of both initiatives, while generating profits, particularly for farmers, as well as tax proceeds. Anaerobic digestion—the production of methane by decomposing organic matter in an oxygen-free environment—is nothing new, but few, if any, of existing plants process the resulting methane into pipeline-quality fuel.
> Scientific American: “Restoration Economy” Strives To Protect Pollinators, Create Jobs (Alex Marie Adams). Some innovative ecological work is underway in Patagonia, Arizona, with its community pollinator gardens and Audubon Society hummingbird refuge, and where The Nature Conservancy has established a nearly 365-hectare preserve. One of the last perennially flowing streams remaining in Arizona, Sonoita Creek and its verdant floodplain teems with birds, butterflies, and other pollinators. The Borderlands Restoration—an L3C, or low-profit limited liability company—was established in 2012 to nurture this region. Borderlands staff partners work with private landowners and nonprofit organizations, as well as state and federal land management agencies, to assess what flora is missing from the diverse mosaic and then work to fill in those gaps, with help from volunteers and the organization’s youth program. Borderlands Restoration is also connecting the health of the habitat to the more than 46,000 people who live in this economically challenged region.
> Yes! Magzine: 5 Ways Science Says To Handle Difficult Emotional Situations (Kira M. Newman). The Greater Good Science Center has collected many resilience practices on our website Greater Good in Action, alongside other research-based exercises for fostering kindness, connection, and happiness. Here are 12 of those resilience practices (squeezed into five categories), which can help you confront emotional pain more skillfully; 1) change the narrative (expressive writing, finding silver linings); 2) face your fears (overcoming a fear); practice self compassion; 4) practice mindfulness (meditate, body scan, mindful breathing); and 5) cultivate forgiveness (nine steps to forgiveness, letting go of anger through compassion).
> Growth Busters: Free Webinar-End Overpopulation Or Stop Overconsumption? Weds, Dec. 14, 9-10 p.m. (EST). Featuring Paul Erhlich, Madeleine Somerville, & Dave Gardner. Register Here . Also, see free film–GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth (https://www.growthbusters.org/free-screening-signup/)
> Climate Reality: 24 Hours Of Reality: The Road Forward, Worldwide events promoting climate change solutions, Dec. 5-6; 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