SEF News-Views Digest No. 162 (1-25-17)
Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher
Now that we have a new president, and cabinet—most having voiced intentions to oppose some vital eco-sustainability causes—it seems the sustainability community could use some healing. So when a Facebook “friend” posted “Healing Time on Earth”, a relatively unknown song by my favorite folk singer-songwriter John Denver, I eagerly listened to this inspiring rendition.
Notes on the live-performance video explain the provenance of this rare, unpublished song, which might have been performed only on this single occasion—at the 1995 Windstar Symposium. In his entertaining introduction, Denver explains how he hastily wrote the song, completing it shortly before the performance.
I invite you to view and listen to Denver’s expressive performance, while giving special attention to this lovely song’s lyrics. Love of nature is a recurring theme in many of Denver’s songs, so the meaning of the line “Let the mountains talk, let the river run” is readily clear, as is the wisdom that nature imparts to those open to its wonders.
Song lyrics: Let the mountains talk, let the river run. / There’s a wisdom here, there is much to learn. / There’s much to know, much to understand, / In this healing time all across the land. / You have heard my songs, oh so many years. / You have laughed with me, washed away my tears. / You have shared my joy, you have felt my pain. / In this healing time, walk with me again. / Through these darker days, on this narrow line, / Help me find my way, help me see the signs. / I am not afraid, I am not alone, / You have taught me well, you have brought me home. / Let the mountain speak, let the rivers run. / As the world awakes to the rising sun. / In each brand new day, in our own rebirth, / In this healing time, on our Mother Earth.
As for the second verse, beginning with “You have heard my songs, oh so many years”, it doesn’t take much imagination to comprehend how these words relate to citizens concerned about sustainability issues. The “sharing of the ups and downs of life”, “the darker days of life”, and “ help me see the signs” are expressions voiced by all dedicated eco-sustainability activists. We are not afraid, and we’re certainly not alone in seeking a peaceful, harmonious existence on Mother Earth. Our united prayer could well be “You have taught me (us) well, you have brought me (us) home”.
[The live performance video can be viewed on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKc0wEmwmYc&index=2&list=RDY0RjdONpqNc]
> Post Carbon Institute: A Good Day For A Walk In The Woods (Richard Heinberg). The most revealing personal characteristic of president #45 may be his complete disconnection from the natural world. Here is an individual who grew up in a city, who sees land only in terms of profit potential, who proudly covers the tortured ground with high-rise buildings, who lives in a penthouse, and who walks outdoors only on golf courses. How can a person so isolated from natural phenomena hope to understand the vulnerability of our planet’s climate, water, air, and innumerable species to the actions of people (one hastens to add—people much like himself)? How can he appreciate that civilization itself is an organism with a constant need for “food” (not just grain and meat, but energy, minerals, and water as well), that is organized by way of hierarchically ordered and interlinked cycles, and that is subject to natural limits and ultimately to death?
> Resilience: Sustainability 4.0 (André Reichel). Sustainability 4.0 borrows from Industry 4.0 which is nothing short of the fourth wave of the industrial revolution characterized by a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds—and many buzzwords, amongst them the internet of things, advanced manufacturing, smart anything everywhere and so forth. Sustainability evolves from conservation principle (1.0) to an equity principle (2.0) to a socio-economic paradigm (3.0) to a key idea of human development itself: the foundation of what Karl Polanyi once termed ‘The Great Transformation‘. Thus, sustainability 4.0 is the evolution of Sustainability as a general principle of society, a more and more dominating mindset about how to frame political, social, ecological and ethical problems. It encompasses two economic paradigms for this ‘Great Sustainability Transformation’: 1) Sharing Economy; and 2) Commons Economy.
> Resource Insights: Neoliberals Know The Price Of Everything And The Value Of Nothing (Kurt Cobb). The neoliberal agenda is one of deregulation, unfettered trade, fiscal austerity, privatization and tax reduction. Fundamental to the neoliberal ideology is that government regulation and planning of economic activity are inherently flawed and cannot bring about the desired ends of efficiency, prosperity and social harmony. Instead, price is the great and sufficient transmitter of information across the economy and across society at large, and the best barometer for all decisions. There are several problems, of course, with the price mechanism. First, it only takes into account costs, which are directly borne by the provider of a product or service. So-called externalities such as pollution and climate change are not tallied in the price. Second, such a monomaniacal focus on price alone pre-empts a broader view of social goals, reducing them merely to price signals. But not every social good can be reduced to a price signal in a nominally “free” market. Here we have a case of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.
> Resilience: The Growthist Self: Growthism Part 3 (Erik Lindberg). In America we have replaced the explorer, frontiersman, aviator and astronaut with a new hero: the entrepreneurial innovator who excites our collective imagination with the prospect of new, life-enhancing-improving inventions. Every American hero from Christopher Columbus to the present has been a Growthist, including the entrepreneurial hero, who lacks the industrialist’s certain calculating and cutthroat quality. In the management and “ideas” sector of the global economy, marketing is king, and “tech” is about collecting organizing, and distributing data. Today, as individualists and Growthists, we tend to see individualism as the ultimate, if not only, guardian of human dignity or wellbeing. The Conquistadors were the first Growthists, a revolutionary class of upwardly mobile, wide-scale entrepreneurs, profit seekers, and wealth creators. From them we first learned that greed is good, restless dissatisfaction is some sort of virtue, and there are no limits to what one can obtain or do. See Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
> Dark Mountain Project: 2016: Toward The Deep Future (John Michael Greer). Some human cultures have seen history as a dynamic process, and cyclic rather than linear. From within the traditional Hindu or the classic Maya worldview, for instance. the future is the past; all things have happened before and will happen again, and while historical change takes place, there’s nothing genuinely new about it. It was only after the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, and the first stirrings of the industrial revolution of the eighteenth, to give rise to the modern vision of history as a process of perpetual improvement, a vast journey up from the darkness and squalor of the prehistoric past to the luminous possibilities of an imagined future. The reason so few people today spend their time imagining a future of perpetual progress is that so few people actually believe in it any more. It could be that the political shifts of 2016 marked the point where the automatic equation of progress with improvement is starting to fray even in public. The core of the crisis of our time is that technological progress, which was once industrial society’s principal source of solutions, has become its principal source of problems. The technic societies of the deep future, furthermore, will be no more eternal than our society is turning out to be.
> Cassandra’s Legacy: An Update On Mineral Depletion: Do We Need Mining Quotas? (Theo Henckens). Currently, the problem of resource depletion is completely missing from the political debate. Unfortunately, the depletion problem won’t go away because the public is not interested in it. Depletion is discussed in depth in the 2014 book “Extracted”, which addresses the need for safeguarding the availability of geologically scarce mineral resources for future generations. A mineral’s scarcity is expressed as the number of years that its extractable amount in the Earth’s crust is sufficient to meet anticipated demand. This exhaustion period is estimated from the annual use of such mineral. The top ten scarce mineral resources are antimony, gold, zinc, molybdenum, rhenium, copper, chromium, bismuth, boron, and tin. This post updates this situation, based on the PhD dissertation “Managing Raw Materials Scarcity” (http://dspace.library.uu.nl/handle/1874/339827).See also: Peak Uranium: The Uncertain Future Of Nuclear Energy (Ugo Bardi).
> Demand Climate Justice: The World At 1°C ― 2016 (Staff). Since June we have been compiling monthly bulletins that highlight the reality of current climate change―impacts such as storms, droughts, floods, and scorching heat. We call it “The World at 1°C” to acknowledge the terrible fact that the global average temperature is already 1°C warmer than it was before the industrial revolution. In fact, it is now already 1.2°C warmer. Our bulletins have also tried to share the stories from movements around the world. Many frontline struggles are subject to state and paramilitary violence―we have suffered heavy losses of (mostly Indigenous) community activists. In spite of this, and against all odds, movements have secured many victories. We have tried to share those stories too―not to sugarcoat the scale of the challenge before us or to provide a false hope, but to recognize and learn from those struggles. Our hope is in the multiple and the collective.
> The Guardian: 2016 Hottest Year Ever Recorded – And Scientists Say Human Activity To Blame (Damian Carrington). 2016 was the hottest year on record, setting a new high for the third year in a row, with scientists firmly putting the blame on human activities that drive climate change. The final data for 2016 was released on Wednesdayby the three key agencies―the UK Met Office and NASA and NOAA in the US―and showed 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have been this century. Direct temperature measurements stretch back to 1880, but scientific research indicates the world was last this warm about 115,000 years ago and that the planet has not experienced such high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for 4m years. The new data shows the Earth has now risen about 1.1C above the levels seen before the industrial revolution, when large-scale fossil fuel burning began. This brings it perilously close to the 1.5C target included as an aim of the global climate agreement signed in Paris in December 2015.
> Thomson Reuters: From Al Gore To Water Politics, Climate Change Heats Up Sundance (Reuters). As former U.S. vice president Al Gore filmed the sequel to his environmental documentary last year—“An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”— he did not expect to be dealing with a new president who has dismissed climate change as a hoax. While the film presents an urgency to address climate change, it is not all doom and gloom as environmentalists believe there is hope in adopting clean, renewable energy. The Gore film is the centerpiece of Sundance’s first-ever ‘New Climate’ segment showcasing films and hosting discussions about issues ranging from water to coral reefs. On-demand streaming services have brought documentaries to a wider audience in recent years, fostering a growing appetite for a genre once regarded as the poor cousin of the entertainment industry.
> Star Tribune: The Suburbs Are Leading The Charge On Energy Efficiency (Miguel Otárola). Clean energy advocates say the solar array is just one way that metro area suburbs are leading the charge on energy efficiency in Minnesota. The suburbs make up a major part of the state’s carbon footprint, and in more affluent suburbs the reason is simple, Abby Finis said: Larger homes and longer commutes. Metro Twin City suburbs leading the way include Edina, St. Louis Park, and Bloomington. Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act, which turns 10 this year, set two benchmarks for the state back in 2007. One was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 by 80 percent of the emissions level in 2005. The other was to require that 25 percent of the electricity provided by public utilities be renewable by 2025.
> NPG: NPG’s New Forum Paper (“The Impact of U.S. Population Growth On Global Climate Change”, Edwin S. Rubenstein).This paper analyzes trends in U.S. population when compared alongside annual CO2 emissions levels―which have steadily increased, despite broad public implementation of conservation, recycling, “smart growth” movements, and “green” technology. Author Rubenstein explains: “Energy-saving technology has reduced per capita carbon dioxide emissions since the first Earth Day. Total emissions are higher, however, because of population growth. This could have been avoided had the [National Environmental Policy Act] ordered Congress to study the impact of its own actions―especially the immigration laws that dramatically increased U.S. population growth. The latest Census Bureau projection (December 2014) shows U.S. population reaching 416.8 million in 2060. That is 98 million, or 31%, above the population reported for 2014. Immigration will account for about 65% of all population growth over this period.
> Thomson Reuters: U.S. Faces Huge Crop Losses If Temperatures Keep Rising – Scientists (Alex Whiting). Food crop loses might push up global food prices, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research claims. By 2100, if global emissions rise at “business as usual” levels, the world will see twice as many days with temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) as it does now, an international team of scientists wrote in the journal Nature Communications. Because crop yields start to drop when temperatures rise above 30 degrees Celsius, that suggests U.S. wheat yields would fall by 20 percent, maize by 50 percent and soybeans by 40 percent by the turn of the century, the scientists found through computer modeling. Ultimately, the best way to protect crop yields is to curb greenhouse gas emissions as agreed under the Paris Agreement on climate change and hold global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, the scientists said.
> Circle of Blue: Water And Climate Dominate World Economic Forum Risk Report (Brett Walton). Steadily increasing environmental risks are recognized as authentic and relentless obstacles to peace, wealth, and health, according to the World Economic Forum’s global risk report, an annual survey of business, academic, and political leaders. The report analyzes the strength and likelihood of 30 risks and 13 trends that shape global society. Four of the five environmental risks in the report, all related to climate change and extreme weather, are judged to be large impact and high likelihood threats. Water crises, deemed a “societal risk” because of their broad reach, ranked third in the high-impact category, the third consecutive year in the top three. Environmental threats, the report notes, are occurring in a world being pulled in two: toward greater income inequality and political polarization, both of which have the potential to undermine the collective action required to address water and climate challenges.
> Resilience: A Power Zone Manifesto (Albert Bates). To reestablish the relatively stable climate of the last 10,000 years (Holocene epoch), we must restore the relationship between energy arriving and leaving Earth’s land, oceans and atmosphere. The non-negotiable physical requirements to return to a safe climate zone will require that humans 1) Stop adding carbon to the atmosphere (and thereby to the oceans); 2) Stop throwing off the balance of nitrogen, phosphorus and other critical cycles that maintain photosynthetic equilibrium and the energy balance of the Earth in relation to the Sun; 3) Reverse desertification; 4) Arrest the degradation of biodiversity; and 5) Restore the naturally regenerative systems and allow them to heal the damage that has been done. These strict guidelines create a dilemma for humanity. Ever since our emergence from the past ice age and the adoption of agriculture, we have marked progress by measures that are the precise opposite of these requirements.
> Resllience: De-[Constructing] Growth: Decoupling Profits From Unsustainable Production* (Nicholas A. Ashford). “Degrowth” has been described as a “movement” rather than an ideology, and is represented by three basic perspectives: 1) degrowth as a proxy for sustainable consumption, and to a lesser extent production; 2) degrowth based on emerging discussion of “sufficiency” as a societal norm, as a result of activism; and 3) degrowth centered on an agenda of anti-capitalism, the principal influence and root cause of sustainability challenges. All groups acknowledge its unfortunate connotations and difficulty in influencing mainstream policy discussions. Conceptually, a more nuanced approach gets rid of the jargon and negative aspects of the evolving concept of degrowth, with a distinction made between growth in production and growth in private-sector profit. My proposed formulation, De-[Constructing] Growth, achieves this by decoupling profit from unsustainable consumption and production.
> ROAR Magazine: The Solidarity Ecosystems Of Occupied Factories (Liam Barrington-Bush). Following occupation practices that originated in Argentina, the workers of the recuperated VIO.ME factory in Greece are pragmatically building towards more supportive communities and a stronger, less-fractured society. The workers view the factory as a part of the community in which they live their lives in active interdependence. People support the factory, and the factory supports the people. When a natural extension of bottom-up, non-hierarchical organizing patterns of workers and communities help determine what to manufacture, the results improve in a range of obvious and important ways. Through the initial act of workplace occupation, recuperated workplaces have begun to overcome the multigenerational failures of business owners, trade unionists, urban planners, sociologists, environmentalists and a range of policymakers, by weaving solutions to a seemingly disparate array of social, economic and ecological issues into the foundations of a single factory space.
> New Internationalist: Union Co-Operatives: What They Are And Why We Need Them (Simon Taylor). Unions play a vital role in counter-balancing alienation and frustration, responding to organizations imposing alienating practices on their workers. However, neoliberal policies have contributed to a long-term decline of union membership and influence in the Anglosphere and elsewhere. But workers and unions can counter alienation and other negative effects of neoliberal policies―such as outsourcing, precarity and union decline―in new and imaginative ways. The United Steelworkers (USW) union in the US is one of many good examples, responding to decades of deindustrialization and declining union membership. They are developing worker co-operatives that place unions at the heart of enterprises, a model known as union co-ops, which empower workers by involving them in the crucial decision-making processes affecting their working lives, overcoming the alienating factor of lack of control.
> Green Tech: How Military Microgrids Could Save The Country—On Energy Costs (Jeff St. John). The U.S. military could save hundreds of millions of dollars each year by switching its bases from diesel backup generators to more efficient microgrids. Furthermore, the military can enhance security against the threat of grid outages from extreme weather or cyberattacks, achieve its efficiency and renewable energy commitments, and even make money from microgrid-generated power in some states. That’s according to a new report entitled Power Begins at Home, which earned accolades from outgoing military officials at a presentation last week in Washington, D.C. The U.S. military is already the country’s leader in microgrid development, with roughly one-third of U.S. capacity expected through 2020, The military could save up to $1 billion per year in energy efficiency savings, if it took the steps to modernize on-base energy delivery and management systems in ways that could support the switch to microgrids.
> Resilience: Forging Permaculture Hand Tools, Part 2 (Tim Wickstrom). The power provided by modern machinery comes at a cost, most commonly found in the byproducts of the industrial modes of production. The use of hand tools, however, is one of the definitive characteristics of our species. People tend to think using hand tools is a lot of physical work, but the work accomplished is aimed towards developing a sustainable and permanent system. With a little bit of extra work and extra design, you end up with permanence that goes on forever. Hand tools have the advantage of vastly greater accuracy, reflecting the skill of the user, as well as efficiency of manufacture when considering the energy that goes into the tool spread over its lifetime.
> Garden Earth: Reducing Consumption And Local Exchange Better Than “Sustainable Consumption” (Gunnar Rundgren). While it is clear that global trade play a major role as a driver of destruction of biodiversity there is no way “consumers” in the US or other developed economies can be expected to take responsibility for the effect on biodiversity of their consumption. It is a tall order even for the companies trading or the retailers selling the products. Citizens should rather take responsibility by a general reduction in consumption, by favoring local goods exchange and relationships and by opposing policies that further drive international trade.
> Yes! Magazine: How Co-Ops Can Make Infrastructure Great Again (Nathan Schneider). Well before the Great Depression, rural Americans started forming electric cooperatives—utilities built, owned, and governed by customers themselves. Today, nearly a thousand local cooperatives provide electricity to the inhabitants of around three-quarters of the landmass of the United States. They’ve also formed cooperative banks to finance new projects, lessening the need for public loans. Together with the rural phone co-ops that emerged in the same period, some electric co-ops are now bringing broadband Internet service to underserved areas. Some have also become leaders in transitioning to renewable energy sources. And all along, the basic model hasn’t changed: The co-ops are still owned and governed by the people they serve. Any new opportunity for public investment is an opportunity for building shared, sustainable, public wealth. Co-ops and other democratic ownership models can help make this happen.
> Vital Aging Network: Aging With Gusto. Saturday, January 28, 2017, 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oakdale Discovery Center 4444 Hadley Avenue North Oakdale, MN. FREE. Download a flyer
> BIGMN: Ennio Schmidt Residency (Basic-income expert), Feb. 3-6. For details, see: BIGMN – Basic Income Guarantee Minnesota
> 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/
> 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
> 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