SEF News-Views Digest No. 177 (8-2-17)
Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher
The portion of humanity perceiving the potential enormous challenges ahead is a relatively small yet potent community. For this reason, attendees to the first Transition US Gathering at Macalester College this past weekend were excited to be in the company of so many like-minded folk. I don’t mean to insinuate that everyone agreed on all issues as presented and discussed, but there were ample opportunities to find reinforcement for any preferred cause—also to learn more about other topical issues, and how they interrelate.
As anticipated, sustainability-futurist expert Richard Heinberg delivered a highly informative, stimulating keynote address, presenting a review of essential information, but with new insights and projections. As a principal peak-oil exponent, he expressed regrets for having made peak-oil projections prematurely, which he claims, was postponed by the unanticipated advent of hydro-fracturing technology. Still, he stands firm in believing the long-term effects of EROEI (energy returned on energy invested) will play out in coming months, or at most, years. Heinberg is very concerned about the overall world situation—economically, socially, politically—and fears an unexpected catastrophic event could create could another recession, possibly worse than the 2008 debacle. [View final comments of Heinberg’s talk here: https://www.facebook.com/TransitionUS/videos/vb.96167166855/10154568845956856/?type=2&theater]
Another highlight of the conference was international transition leader Rob Hopkins’ “Welcome” video, which he made especially for the conference. Because air travel raises one’s carbon footprint, Rob “walks the talk” by avoiding it. In this video he delivers an entertaining, inspiring talk that’s sprinkled with humor and positive stories of actions taken by people worldwide to create resilient, sustainable, and meaningful lives. Early in the video, an intentional interruption by a commercial featuring Amazon-com’s latest high-tech personal assistant device is used to illustrate the power of high-tech to supplant interactions with others—and with nature. Rob’s message is that we are social beings who thrive best within supportive communities, where people relate to one another in real time, rather than impersonal digital devices.
At least 40 workshops and classes provided plenty of opportunities for conferees to learn and participate in a variety of discussion topics. Most events began with self-introductions and ended with Q/A sessions, providing everyone a chance to speak. Transition folk evidence a strong commitment to such core principals as equality, frugality, authenticity, and devotion in the process of creating resilient, sustainable communities. Undoubtedly, this was the most sustainable event we recall ever attending. Macalester College provides an exemplary institutional model for reducing, reusing, and recycling, which is the main reason the conference was held on this beautiful campus.
It was obvious that conferees greatly enjoyed participating in this unique gathering of several hundred kindred folk. Everyone received the requisite information, skills, and inspiration to share with their communities in ongoing efforts to create greater resilience and sustainability. Convincing more citizens to join in the movement is a chief goal and strategy. For certain, if the movement is to grow and make a genuine long-term difference, it will need the combined strength of many people, especially our youth, who have the most to lose—and gain.
> TheTyee: Staving Off The Coming Global Collapse (William E. Rees). ‘Overshoot’ is when a species uses resources faster than can be replenished. We’re already there. And show no signs of changing. Humans have a virtually unlimited capacity for self-delusion, even when self-preservation is at stake. Denying reality is not a viable option.
> Post Carbon Institute: Are We Doomed? Let’s Have A Conversation (Richard Heinberg). For those engaged in the conversation, there’s only hard work and the satisfaction of honestly facing our predicament with an attitude of curiosity, engagement, and compassion. For us, threats of doom or promises of utopia are distractions or cop-outs. We’re not all ready to have the same conversation, but perhaps that’s a good place to start.
> Sierra Club: How Can We Talk About Global Warming? (Renee Lertzman). Humans are motivated by love, belonging, meaning, and mattering. People love good stories—even ones (or especially ones) that have shame, fear, guilt, and anxiety. To understand such stories, one has to have a conscience and care about the world. There’s no need to sugarcoat the situation we’re in; let’s put a rest to that argument. What we need is heaps of fierce compassion and bravery.
> Resilience: Systems Thinking And The Narrative Of Climate Change (Francesco Gonella). Our framing and cognitive dissonance prevent us from moving forward with useful policies to restrain climate change. Solutions that protect growth are either destructive to the geobiosphere and/or intensive in energy use. But the Maximum Power Principle provides a conceptual scientific framework that explains our societal systemic behavior.
> Climate Code Red: A Failure Of Imagination On Climate Risks (Ian Dunlop, David Spratt). Climate change is an existential risk that could abruptly end human civilization because of a catastrophic “failure of imagination” by global leaders to understand and act on the science and evidence before them. [Extract from Disaster Alley: Climate Change, Conflict And Risk]
> Politico: To My Fellow Plutocrats: You Can Cure Trumpism (Nick Hanauer). Our real threat is an alarming breakdown in social cohesion, due to radical, rising economic inequality, and the anger and anxiety it engenders. A tiny minority of mostly urban elite have benefitted obscenely from growing economic, political and legal power. Our country will not get better until our fellow citizens feel better, by actually doing better. Trumpism poses a threat to all Americans, but most of all to the superrich, who have the most to lose. [See also: Inequality Is Not Inevitable, It’s A Policy Choice.]
> NPG: America’s Groundwater: Are We Doing Enough To Save It? (Christopher J. Daly). The state of America’s ancient aquifers lies in present levels of groundwater, success of replenishment efforts, management policies set by federal, state and local governments—as well as the cooperation of individual property owners with those policies—and the pressure of increased population and a “growth at any cost” mentality on a multitude of fronts.
> Resilience: Dangerous Years: A Conversation With David Orr (Gene Marshal). David W. Orr’s 2016 book Dangerous Years: Climate Change, the Long Emergency, and the Way Forward is the best thing I have read on the overall social-change challenges of this century. The social content of this book is broad, deep, and on target, and Orr’s prose reads like poetry. First of all, he demolishes the lies of climate crisis denial, as well as the lies of minimalist response to this emergency.
> CNN: Earth To Warm 2 Degrees Celsius By The End Of This Century, Studies Say (Ashley Strickland). This rise in temperature (2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is the ominous conclusion reached by two different studies using entirely different methods published in the journal Nature Climate Change on Monday. One study used statistical analysis to show that there is a 95% chance that Earth will warm more than 2 degrees at century’s end, and a 1% chance that it’s below 1.5 C.
> The Guardian: All Hell Breaks Loose As The Tundra Thaws (Jeremy Plester). A recent heatwave in Siberia’s frozen wastes has resulted in outbreaks of deadly anthrax, a series of violent explosions and ground tremblings. In the past 3 years, 14 giant craters have been discovered, ostensibly the result of thawing tundra and methane explosions.
> Inside Climate News: Like Exxon, Utilities Knew About Climate Change Risks Decades Ago (John H. Cushman, Jr.). Forty years ago, according to reams of archival documents, electric utility industry officials told Congress that the looming problem of climate change might require the world to back away from coal-fired power—something that is only now beginning to happen.
> Common Dreams: ‘Obscene’: 70 Healthcare Ceos Raked In $9.8 Billion Since 2010 (Jake Johnson). “The median household income in 2015 was $56,515, which the average healthcare CEO made in less than a day.” CEOs are incentivized not to take actions that would benefit the healthcare system overall, but rather to “inflate stock prices” using methods “such as repurchasing shares or issuing dividends to shareholders.”
> MinnPost: Wide Contamination In U.S. Tap Water, Though Most Systems Meet Standards (Ron Meador). Environmental Working Group research found that public water systems are delivering—at levels that may be legal but are nonetheless considered risky by public health authorities—93 contaminants that can cause cancer, 78 associated with brain and nervous system damage, 63 connected to developmental harm to children or fetuses, 45 linked to hormone disruption, and 38 that may cause fertility problems.
> Common Dreams: Middle School Suicides Double As Common Core Testing Intensifies (Steven Singer). In 2014, the last year for which data was available, 425 middle-school students nationwide took their own lives. To be fair, researchers, educators and psychologists say several factors are responsible for the spike; however, pressure from standardized testing is high on the list. In fact, it is a hallmark of other nations where children perform better on these tests than our own, like South Korea.
> Truth-Out: Journalism Is Dying And Content Marketing Is Taking Its Place (Tamara Pearson). A recent Harris Poll found that people tend to click the first article that comes up in a search, even though such articles are often advertising content aimed at selling medicine or medical devices. When people aren’t searching, they are often coming across such misleading content via social media. Content marketing—corporate advertising disguised as articles, videos and information—is being systematically manufactured on an industrial scale.
> Star Tribune: How The Zebra Mussels Scourge Spread Across Minnesota (Tony Kennedy). The invasive zebra mussels into the nation’s waterways and their rapid spread into Minnesota’s waters threatens the state’s annual $5 billion tourism industry and fishing economy. 275 lakes have been invaded, and infiltrate another 20-30 annually, with negative affects on lake property values and ecosystems, including loss of desirable fish and other species.
> Huffington Post: There’s An Easy And A Powerful Way To Reduce Our Climate Impact (Kristen Stade). Of all possible climate-fighting actions, the researchers find that having one less child is by far the most potent―resulting in 58.6 fewer tons of carbon emissions per person. The next most powerful action, living entirely car-free, offers a fraction of that potential, with carbon reductions of 2.4 tons per year for each person making that change.
> Resilience: We Did It: Sailing Cargo In The Aegean (Jan Lundberg). We are proud to have resurrected sailing cargo in the Mediterranean after a global hiatus of several decades. Our SAIL MED organization has been working on this and related projects since 2013. We’re part of a global trend of moving cargo with clean, truly renewable energy. And it’s fun helping to advance timeless Greek culture.
> OuiShare: What If Cities Led The Fight Against Climate Change (Samuel Roumeau). The decision by President Trump to withdraw the USA—the world’s biggest per capita polluter—from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change is undoubtedly a set-back to a unified global response to climate change. However, the response by US cities, along with states, businesses and citizens has been truly inspiring. More than 300 American “Climate Mayors” have committed to “adopt, honor and uphold Paris Climate Agreement goals.”
> Shareable: Q&A With Scholar Juliet Schor On The Striking Differences Between Nonprofit And For-Profit Sharing Enterprises (Kevin Stark). There’s a huge difference in the goals between for-profit sharing economy companies like Uber and Airbnb and nonprofit groups like tool libraries, time banks, and maker spaces. Juliet Schor, professor at the sociology department at Boston College, explores this tension between for-profit and nonprofit sharing groups.
> Food Tank: Partnership Aims To Train Needed Organic Seed Farmers (Michael Peñuelas). A first-of-its-kind educational partnership between the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) and the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA) is training hundreds of new seed growers in organic production. Through an online certificate-granting educational platform and an accompanying structured internship program, the two groups hope to train enough farmers to help supply meet demand—and make a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loophole irrelevant.
> Common Dreams: Your Personal Consumption Choices Can’t Save The Planet: We Have To Confront Capitalism (Kate Aronoff). We arrived at the place we are now thanks to the actions of a small and incredibly wealthy substratum of the population and their control over the economy’s modes of production, which define how we live and work and consume. To stave off disaster, we must transform the economic system driving climate change, by presenting a vision for a fairer world.
> Resilience: Why Are The Danes So Happy? Because Their Economy Makes Sense (George Lakey). The World Happiness Report puts Danes consistently in the top tier. Twice in the past four years Denmark came in first. Danes also report more satisfaction with their health care than anyone else in Europe, which makes sense, since happiness is related to a sense of security and others being there for you. A fine health care system makes that real.
> Ensia: To Avoid Climate Catastrophe, We’ll Need To Remove CO2 From The Air. Here’s How (Mary Hoff). Scientists are looking at both low-tech and high-tech solutions to reducing CO2 emissions. The major prospects include: 1) afforestation and reforestation; 2) carbon farming; 3) various types of vegetation; 4) bioenergy and burial; 5) biochar; 6) ocean fertilization; 7) rock solutions; and 8) direct air capture and storage. Each of these strategies is explained briefly.
> GrowthBusters Webinar: Fewer Children: A Moral Responsibility, Wed., August 9, 2017, 9 pm EDT, 75 Minutes; Panel: Travis Rieder, bioethicist, and Madeleine Somerville, writer/blogger/columnist. Link: https://www.growthbusters.org/webinar-fewer-children/
> MN Fifth Congressional District: Save the EPA Event, Featuring Congressman Keith Ellison, Tues., August 15, 6:00-7:30 p.m.; Redeemer Lutheran Church (1800 Glenwood Avenue, Minneapolis)
> Transition Twin Cities: Groups And Activities: Transition ASAP – Transition Longfellow – Corcoran Grows Transition North Suburbs – Transition West St. Paul/West Side – Transition NE; For resources and connections Contact Leslie MacKenzie.
> MN Department of Health: Climate and Health 101 Webinar, one per month through December and will continually update our webpage with information (registration links, copies of the PPT deck and webinar recording). See: http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/climatechange/communication.html
> Alliance For Sustainability: Linking Citizens, Congregations And Cities For Sustainable Communities. Extensive listings of Minnesota news, events, and projects: http://www.afors.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.
> 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