Citizens for Sustainability: Transition Forum—Helping Our Community Transition To A Sustainable Future, Sat., July 8, 3-4:30 p.m., St. Anthony Village City Hall Council Chambers 3301 Silver Lake Rd. Leslie McKenzie, presenter, with panelists Tim Jordan and Michael Russelle. Free! Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
SEF News-Views Digest No. 173 (6-28-17)
Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher
How do you envision the ideal city of the future? Many conscientious city planners worldwide are debating this issue, and some bold projections are surfacing. The latest issue of Scientific American (July ’17) includes three articles of special interest about future city life.
In the primary article “How Cities Could Save Us”, author William McDonnough reminds us that cities are home to around 55% of the world’s population, and they are exerting increasing stresses on the planet, including producing 70% of global CO2 emissions. The forward-thinking vision of some city leaders is based on mimicking the circular operating systems of nature
All natural ecosystems operate principally on ample, free solar energy, which interacts with the earth’s geochemistry in sustaining productive, regenerative biological systems. So rather than continuing to rely on the conventional linear flow most cities use—one that is based on a “take, make, waste” system in dealing with consumption of resources—city designers are beginning to envision a circular natural system based on “take, make, retake, remake, and restore.” Adopting the circular system model means that all wastes are recycled into ever more useful resources.
Creative city designers are imagining that every human-made item can be used and reused to support life, inspire delight, and harmonize with nature. For example, buildings might operate like trees—sequestering carbon, making oxygen, distilling water, providing habitat for diverse species, and converting solar income into plentiful energy, perhaps even providing excess power to other entities. Following this path . . .“The metabolism of a living, positive city allows human settlements and the natural world to flourish together.”
Three circular models are presented: 1) The renovation and expansion of the Ford Rogue Plant in Dearborn, Michigan; 2) Sustainability Base, NASA’s new center for science and computing at its Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California; and 3) Hoofddorp, the award-winning Park 2020 development in the Netherlands. In addition, Curitiba, Brazil is pointed out as a model for city transformation that began in the 1970s with the establishment of a comprehensive public-bus transportation system. Today, 85% of Curitiba’s citizens use the bus. Moreover, the good citizens have a 90% recycle rate that covers 70% of the city’s refuse. How does this record compare with your city? Ours is around 32%, which compares well with other local suburbs, but is far below the desirable rate of Curitiba.
The other two articles included in this issue—“Tipping The Trash” by Michael E. Webber, and “From Parking Lot to Paradise” by Carlo Ratti and Assaf Biderman—address related concerns. The former article addresses the need to use waste productively, including incineration to produce electricity and mining for precious metals. The latter article looks at the pros and cons of how city transportation will be affected with the increasing use of self-driving vehicles, in conjunction with increasing population growth and greater urban congestion.
These articles are not currently available online, but probably will be in a few weeks. Although there are legitimate concerns about the role and long-term effectiveness of advanced technologies, I think we can agree that the goals and practices discussed are worth serious consideration by all municipalities. How does your town or city fare in adopting some of these unconventional proposals? In our small home city of St. Anthony Village, some of these issues have been discussed, plans made, and action is being taken. But we still have a long way to go before becoming a truly resilient and sustainable community.
> Conversation Earth: Near-Term Human Extinction (Podcast interview—Dave Gardner, with Guy McPherson). Award-winning scientist Dr. Guy McPherson has concluded that for human civilization, the end is near. He advises the rate of change of our climate is increasing far more rapidly than we are being told, and this puts us on his endangered species list. In this 2017 interview, McPherson reveals why the International Panel on Climate Change, and even many individual scientists, understate the problem. He critiques our modern “living arrangement,” and the lies our culture promulgates to avoid admitting, “We are trashing this planet at an astonishing rate of speed.” He also shares his thinking about a “sane” living arrangement. You might be surprised—both at how soon he expects we’ll be extinct, and at his positive advice about how to respond to this news.
> Resilience: Beyond ‘No’ And The Limits Of ‘Yes’: A Review (Robert Jensen). In her new book, “No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need”, Naomi Klein reminds us to pay attention not only to the style in which Trump governs, but in whose interests he governs (the wealthy), while recognizing the historical neoliberal forces that make his administration possible. Underneath all these pathologies, Klein explains, is “a dominance-based logic that treats so many people, and the earth itself, as disposable”. In addition to the “no” to the existing order, there must be a “yes” to other values, which she illustrates with the story behind the 2015 Leap Manifesto she helped draft. First, and most painful, is the recognition that no combination of renewable resources is going to power the world in which we now live. There are biophysical limits that we can’t wish away because they are inconvenient, and they limit our social/political/economic options. No is not enough. But yes is not enough, either. Our fate lies in the joy and grief of maybe.
> Resilience: The Impacts Of An Ice Free Arctic: A Climate Paradigm Shift (Roger Boyd). As sea ice had been rapidly lost in the Arctic, some researchers are studying at the possible effects and calling for greater research funding. Effects include: 1) changes to the Earth’s heat imbalance that may be greater than that created by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions; 2) substantial changes to the Northern Hemisphere climate systems; and 3) a northward move in the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone. There is a possibility that positive feedbacks residing in the Northern Hemisphere, such as permafrost melt, may be triggered at a lower global temperature than previously assumed, resulting in possible increases in natural emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Arctic Amplification has already produced a reduction in the temperature differential between the Arctic and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. Contingency plans should be put in place to deal with a possible climate paradigm shift.
> Green Tech Media: No, Cities Are Not Actually Leading On Climate. Enough With The Mindless Cheerleading (Sam Brooks). The idea that cities are leading on climate change is applauded repeatedly, but it’s not actually happening. Retrofit programs for buildings and homes aren’t delivering results. Power distribution remains rooted in century-old thinking and technology. And those cities that claim to be on track to go “100 percent renewable”? Not even close. With the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris accord, city contributions are needed more than ever, but the truth is that cities have done little to contribute to recent declines in carbon pollution. When it comes to climate, it often seems as if cities have substituted press releases for action. There should be a website that simply displays electricity consumption data for every city in America. It’s time to stop with the empty platitudes and face reality. We’ve a lot of work to do.
> Ecosophia: The Twilight Of Anthropolatry (John Michael Greer). The rise and fall of climate change activism makes a good proxy measurement for the failure of industrial civilization as a whole to engage in basic reality testing. We live in a hypocritical age, with the manifestations of hypocrisy in action. In every human society, every aspect of life is mapped out according to a paradigm of some kind, which defines what’s important, relevant, possible, and unthinkable in that part of the world of human experience. We’re in the midst of exactly such a process in the industrial world today, and I suggest a deliberately edgy label for it: anthropolatry, the worship of humanity as a god. Unbiased attention to the evidence from science shows that humanity is simply a species of native megafauna to a single not-very-important planet. The project of living like gods isn’t working too well for Man’s devout worshippers these days, and it shows no signs of working any better in the foreseeable future.
> Degrowth: Deep Ecology: System Change With Head, Heart And Hand (Christiane Kliemann). In her book Coming Back To Life Joanna Macy describes deep ecology as a philosophical movement that questions fundamental premises of the Industrial Growth Society, and seeks ways for humans to be interdependent with all Earthly life. Macy considers our contemporary time the time of the “Great Turning” in which humanity faces unprecedented challenges. At the same time we have enough knowledge, technologies and opportunities to turn human civilization “from the Industrial Growth Society to a Life-Sustaining Society”. This is why Macy sees our current systemic crisis mainly as a crisis of consciousness. Macy has identified three main stories that are happening in parallel, depending on the taken perspective: 1) Business as usual; 2) The great unraveling; and 3) The great turning. Deep Ecology encourages people to join the collective quest seeking a good life for all on a healthy planet.
> Dallas News-Resilience: How Radicals Are Offering Realistic Solutions To Our Spiraling Political Problems (Robert Jensen). Liberals typically support existing systems and hope to make them more humane. Leftists focus on the unjust nature of the systems themselves. Two of these key systems are capitalism, an economic system that celebrates inequality and degrades ecosystems, and imperialism, a global system in which First World countries have long captured a disproportionate share of the world’s wealth through violence and coercion. Jensen calls himself an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist leftist rooted in a critique of white supremacy and a radical feminist critique of patriarchy. His left politics also focus on the human species’ intensifying assault on the larger living world—multiple, cascading ecological crises that we can’t afford to ignore. Central leftist causes promote: 1) “Ecospherism” (humans are an integral part of the ecosphere rather than a dominating species); 2) The worker cooperative movement; and 3) Adoption of a National health insurance plan.
> Common Dreams: Onward Toward Socialism: America’s Demise, And One Way To Survive (Paul Buchheit). It goes far beyond Donald Trump. He’s just simple-mindedly exacerbating a trend. Clear signs of deterioration have been building in our nation, some of them old and some more recent, all of them related to arrogance and greed at the highest levels. Beyond these failings there is one obvious way to begin to reverse the process. Trends include: destruction of families (wealth loss, painkillers, dying); degradation of human health; disdain for minorities; delusion of political leaders; deceit of neoliberalism; dereliction of duty (rejecting renewables); and dumbness (financing our assassins, like Saudi Arabia). Reversing the process will require choosing a compromise that includes tolerating (but regulating) capitalism and supporting a healthy share of socialism in caring for all needy citizens.
> MN Pollution Control Agency: State Of Minnesota Plans For Changing Climate (Risikat Adesaogun). The Interagency Climate Adaptation Team’s (ICAT) new report, Adapting to climate change in Minnesota, calls out many climate change related developments, including: 1) For several decades Minnesota has seen substantial warming during winter and at night, with increased precipitation throughout the year, particularly from larger and more frequent rainstorms, two effects that will continue to be the state’s leading symptoms of climate change; 2) These changes have damaged buildings and infrastructure, limited recreational opportunities, changed our growing seasons, and affected the quality of our lakes, rivers and drinking water; 3) These and other climate-related trends are accelerating; and 4) Due to climate change, Minnesota will experience warmer winters, more days with severe heat and longer-lasting heat waves, and increasingly heavy and more frequent rainstorms.
> Common Dreams: ‘Scary’: CO2 Rates Climb Even As Emissions Stabilize (Julia Conley). According to a report in The New York Times on Monday, experts are concerned that human efforts to stop pumping carbon dioxide into the air can only go so far in the fight against climate change. Since scientists began studying climate change, they’ve determined that the earth’s oceans and land absorb most carbon dioxide that’s produced when humans burn coal, oil and natural gas. The rest has caused concern because it’s released into the air, warming the planet. Countries around the world have enacted regulations to keep carbon emissions to a minimum. But even with these commitments, scientists say there’s still been an alarming rate of increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere this year. The extreme weather in the previous two years may have caused such an extreme rise that the natural “sponges” that are usually able to absorb carbon dioxide, are having trouble keeping up.
> LA Times: Building A Sustainable ‘Highway Of The Future’ (Jennie Bergal). In rural Georgia there’s an 18-mile stretch of Interstate 85 where new technologies are being tested for what could be a green highway of the future. The long-term goal is to build the world’s first sustainable road, a highway that could create its own clean, renewable energy and generate income by selling power to utility companies, while producing no storm-water runoff or other pollution and eliminating traffic deaths. The project, called The Ray, is an unusual collaboration between state agencies, private companies, and a family foundation that is paying for it. The goal of The Ray is to reinvent the highway so it can restore ecosystems, generate new ones, and provide the energy that moves people and goods. The Ray also is focused on restoring the environment along the highway.
> MinnPost: When Heat Waves Turn Deadly: A Look At Patterns That Are Worsening Worldwide (Ron Meador). The respected journal Nature has published a meta-analysis of nearly 2,000 peer-reviewed studies of heat-related mortality between 1980 and 2014. Some some big-picture conclusions: 1) It’s likely that more than 100,000 deaths caused by heat occurred worldwide, in nearly 800 separate events in 164 cities and 36 countries; 2) The temperature/humidity combinations that prove fatal can be calculated from these deaths, suggesting that 30% of people in the world now experience life-threatening heat at least 20 days a year; 3) If current trends in greenhouse gas emissions continue, the proportion of people at that risk level will rise to 74% by the end of the century; 4) It is possible to reduce the risk of death in these conditions with “social adaptation; and 5) It is unlikely that human physiology will evolve the necessary higher heat tolerance. In the U.S., the eastern and especially the southeastern states could show the greatest increase. The south and southwest could remain very hot, with Orlando and Houston being in the danger zone almost all summer. [See also: Heat Can Kill And We’re Turning Up The Thermostat]
> Think Progress: Chart Of The Month: Driven By Tesla, Battery Prices Cut In Half Since 2014 (Joe Romm). Battery prices have continued their stunning decline, with game-changing implications for electric vehicles (EVs), the electric grid, and the cage fight between renewables and natural gas. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) reports that lithium-ion battery prices have fallen “by almost half just since 2014” and “electric cars are largely responsible.” In 2013, the International Energy Agency estimated EVs would achieve cost parity with gasoline vehicles when battery costs hit $300 per kiloWatt-hour of storage capacity, which the IEA said would happen by 2020. That price point was in fact crossed last year, which is why both GM and Tesla announced they could deliver affordable (well below $40,000), long-range (200-plus miles) EVs. When battery prices drop another 50 percent, which BNEF thinks will happen within a decade or so, batteries dominate the market. Over the next 25 years, small-scale battery storage will become a $250 billion market.
> Reuters: Renewable Energy No Longer A Niche To Institutional Investors (Dave Gregorio). Institutional investors remain eager to put money to work on renewable energy projects even as U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to revive their chief competitor: coal, financial executives said at a conference this week. Strong interest in green energy comes as Trump is championing fossil fuels and targeting environmental regulations as job killers. Even without federal government involvement, executives noted that U.S. cities, states and corporations appear committed to renewable energy, as do most other countries. This should help projects attract capital in an era of low interest rates. Major U.S. corporations such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and General Motors Co. have become some of America’s biggest buyers of renewable energy in recent years.
> E&E News: STATES: New Best Friends: GOP Governors And Renewables (Benjamin Storrow). Trump’s budget request for fiscal 2018 includes a 70 percent reduction to the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. But while President Trump sings coal’s praises, efforts to green America’s economy are receiving a boost from an unexpected quarter: Republican-held governors’ mansions. Governors in Nevada, Florida, and Iowa are particularly pro renewable energies, and industry and state officials agree that the maturation of the wind and solar industries is opening the door for Republicans to back renewables. Utility-scale solar and wind costs have fallen by 85 percent and 66 percent, respectively, since 2009. Unlike their Democratic counterparts, who are apt to cite climate benefits of clean energy initiatives, Republicans are content to focus on economic benefits
> Democracy Now: Medicare For All: A Prescription For What Ails Us (Amy Goodman, Denis Moynihan). Single-payer is already in practice in the U.S., and is immensely popular. It’s called Medicare, the taxpayer-funded program that guarantees health care for seniors and people with permanent disabilities. Currently, 57 million seniors and people with disabilities are on Medicare, out of a U.S. population of 320 million. There is no rational reason why Medicare couldn’t be expanded to cover all Americans, regardless of age, from birth to death. This is what single-payer health care advocates call “Medicare for All.” Medicare for All would maintain the current system of private and nonprofit hospitals, doctor offices and all the other familiar aspects of the U.S. health system. The single most important difference is that health insurance companies as we know them would cease to exist. Prominent national groups have been working on developing a single-payer healthcare system for years.
> Resilience-On The Earth Productions: Prosper! Is The Solution Space (Karen Rybold-Chin, Chris Martenson, Adam Taggart, Greg David). In this 6-minute YouTube interview, creators of the phenomenally popular, Crash Course, Chris Martenson and Adam Taggart talk about their new book Prosper! Chris and Adam connect the information that needs to change. Chris goes on to say, “Prosper is the solution space that begins to address the question, what can we do?” And Adam adds, “A big focus of ours this year is helping interpret what some of the most recent developments are and being at the ready for when the big breakages happen.” This interview detailing the book Prosper is part of the Local Public Library Pilot Project that promotes reading and community engagement by providing a way for readers and book groups to explore the world from an author’s perspective.
> Yes! Magazine: Why We Are Driven To Search For The Truth (Robert Jensen). To infomercial hosts, carnival barkers, and other hustlers, questions about truth just don’t matter much. For them, freedom of expression is all about the hustle, not truth. For the rest of us, truth is, of course, never alive or dead. It’s something we struggle to see more clearly, to realize day to day, to make more real in our lives. And that’s always messy business. Truth is always on life support. Understanding of the world is the product of a complicated interaction between our rational and emotional responses; some honest self-reflection is in order before one can accuse any specific people in any specific age of being post-truth or truth-impaired. In our blundering to find the truth, we are not purely rational computing machines, but complex organic entities. A bit of humility is useful, for all of us. Even without guarantees, truth matters, and freedom of expression to seek the truth matters.
> TED2017: Why We Need To Imagine Different Futures (Anab Jain). Like archaeologists of the future, we visit many possible futures for a living, bringing back evidences from those futures for you to experience today. We have learned in our work that one of the most powerful means of effecting change is when people can directly, tangibly and emotionally experience some of the future consequences of their actions today. Currently, we are running an experiment in our studio based on climate data projections, exploring a future where the Western world has moved from abundance to scarcity. This time we are bringing an entire room from the future that makes the consequences of climate change and food insecurity much more immediate and tangible. By putting ourselves into different possible futures, by becoming open and willing to embrace the uncertainty and discomfort that such an act can bring, we have the opportunity to imagine new possibilities.
> Resilience: The Positive Power Of Walking (Jay Walljasper). Walking advocates, once focused primarily on physical health, are now stepping up to promote social, economic and community health. Their ultimate goal is to transform American towns and neighborhoods into better living places for everyone. Streams of medical studies now document the central role physical activity plays in fending off disease and disability. Walking stands out because: 1) It is free; 2) It requires no special training or equipment; 3) It can be done almost anywhere at any time; and 4) It is already Americans’ #1 favorite physical activity. Better walking conditions also help low-income families economically, and people on the street create business. Walking more will also help avert climate disruption, air pollution, urban sprawl and other environmental threats. The first Walking Summit held outside Washington, DC. will be the 2017 National Walking Summit in St. Paul, MN,Sept. 13-15, with the theme “Vital and Vibrant Communities—The Power of Walkability”.
> Permaculture Magazine: Earth Restoration: How To Change The World Together (John D. Liu). It is a great idea for small groups to find purpose and meaning by living sustainable lifestyles and sharing and caring for each other. If humanity is collectively engaged in Ecosystem Restoration it makes our lives meaningful and it just might save us from the worst possible outcomes of climate change. What we need to realize is that we are facing an existential threat. The future of humanity will be determined by whether humanity is able to live within planetary limits, so we must design and create the future we want to live in. As for creating wealth, the only way to have it is to share it; otherwise it’s just stuff. The goal is a co-creation of everyone who understands how to communicate and work together across age, class, and ethnic divisions. We can’t spend too much time in cyber-space. Let’s discuss this more broadly, while at camp www.ecosystemrestorationcamps.org.
> Star Tribune: Conventionally Farmed Land Is Literally Dirt Poor (Bonnie Blodgett). When a young couple inherited a Vermont family farm, they decided to cleanse the soil of its many years of accumulated chemical dependency. No more chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides, and no more tilling to reduce weeds, or encouraging water to drain more quickly into unprotected lakes and streams after a hard rain. At the beginning, the result was disastrous, as the chemically addicted soil had lost its ability to fight off disease. Gradually, the couple nursed the land back to productivity, using a process known as regeneration. They even took the concept to the Vermont state legislature, where Senate Bill 43 would, if adopted, establish a soil regeneration program. The program’s long-term goal is also aimed at reducing CO2 emissions by sequestering more carbon in the ground, which in turn will produce higher quality crops that are also healthier.
> Shareable: The Case For Local, Community-Led Sustainable Energy Programs (Wolfgang Hoeschele). The necessary technologies exist for a 21st century energy system based on renewable sources of energy, which are often cheaper than conventional energy forms. Every city and town can make use of renewable energy sources that offer economic opportunity and enhance resilience in the face of global economic crises and environmental change. On a regional level, localities can exchange energy in order to even out seasonal or daily imbalances in supply and demand. A locally based vision of renewable energy generation could eliminate global or national domination of the energy infrastructure by a few large players, and thus the concentration of profits in the hands of a very few. It could also reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to very low levels, comparable to the emissions before the industrial revolution. The best way to ensure that a business serves its customers is for the customers to take over the business, as evidenced by the growth in cooperatives.
> Citizens for Sustainability: Transition Forum—Helping Our Community Transition To A Sustainable Future, Sat., July 8, 3-4:30 p.m., St. Anthony Village City Hall Council Chambers 3301 Silver Lake Rd. Leslie McKenzie, presenter, with panelists Tim Jordan and Michael Russelle. Free! Contact: email@example.com
> Climate Action Events: Northwest Metro Climate Action, “Birds & Climate Change”, July 11; Anoka Area Climate Action, MN’s Clean Energy Solutions to Climate Change, July 13. See websites for details.
> Alliance For Sustainability: Linking Citizens, Congregations And Cities For Sustainable Communities. Extensive listings of Minnesota news, events, and projects: http://www.afors.org/
> Transition Twin Cities: Events: Northern Spark Transition Message— 1st National Gathering of Transition Towns US—July 27-31, Macalester College, St. Paul. For info: (http://transitiontwincities.org/).
> Citizen’s Climate Lobby: Regular Meetings And Events (www.citizensclimatelobby-mn.org); Meetings in 18 MN locations on the 2nd Saturday of each month to focus on bi-partisan Carbon Fee and Dividend Legislation; 36 members of the US House on the Climate Solutions Caucus are involved.
> Clean Energy Resources Teams (CERTS). MN Energy Stories & Upcoming Events; Calendar.MnCERTs.org
> 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/
> Resilience: Think Resilience – Preparing For The Rest Of The 21st Century. This course, consisting of 22 video lectures by Post Carbon Institute Senior Fellow Richard Heinberg, totaling about 4 hours), may be taken at your own leisure ($20). View the video.
> Conversation Earth: 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. The latest: Surviving a Hostile Climate on Local Food and Local Food Revolution, with Michael Brownlee.
> World Population Balance: Overpopulation Podcast (Dave Gardner), Episode 9:Interview with Joel Pett, Pulitzer Prize editorial cartoonist; Episodes 1-8 are also available; Listen here; One Planet, One Child (worldpopulationbalance.org); Preview: https://youtu.be/T4bed-He-Zk
> WTS: 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)
> 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