SEF News-Views Digest No. 180 (8-23-17)
Clifton Ware, Editor-Publisher
I was pleasantly surprised this week upon reading an essay-sized book titled Night Thoughts, by playwright-character actor Wallace Shawn. Recently, he appeared in a public TV interview to discuss this book, and Bettye and I were impressed with the depth of his thinking and speaking. The following excerpts summarize his basic message, which speaks to our current extremely conflicted socio-cultural-political scene, whereby the very fortunate have-a-lots (winners) live very well, while the suffering have-nots (losers) struggle to survive. In Shawn’s words:
The aggressiveness that has been our daily mode of being can’t help us any more. We wake up and start massacring people whom we see as our enemies . . . On the one side, there are all the lucky people, and on the other side, strangely allied together, we find all the unlucky people . . . At the moment, the lucky people are clearly winning, and almost all the evidence seems to indicate that they’ll ultimately prevail. The nonhuman creatures, the unlucky people, are running from place to place, gassed, strafed, shot at, booby-trapped, gasping for breath. And the living planet that we’ve blasted and bombed and injected with poison is now, like an enormous animal who’s been tortured for hours by some horribly disturbed demented children, is finally beginning to die, and its terrible groans are dreadful to hear. But the animal may not die, if we can convince the children, who are ourselves, to stop killing it. It’s perhaps still a possibility that we might be able to stop being murderers. This could be our night, and during this night we might be able to stop. Stop. Think. And start again in a different way. (pp. 74-75)
For certain, if humanity is going to survive, we’ll need to find a different way; indeed, a transformative way that results in a sustainable way of life—for all species. Creating a world where all creatures may be considered “lucky” inhabitants (“winners”) would be a worthwhile moral goal—as improbable as it may seem.
On another note, for anyone interested in what’s going on with our worldwide food supply, I think you’ll find the new groundbreaking documentary series GMOs Revealed of special interest. To provide an idea of what it’s all about, here’s a sneak peek for you.
Finally, Bettye and I are taking a break until mid-September, including a road trip to the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota, and on to Wyoming to take some day-hikes in the Big Horn, Wind River, and, Teton mountain ranges. The next e-newsletter issue will be Sept. 20. Meanwhile, please continue your personal efforts at creating greater resilience and sustainability, for yourself, your loved ones, your community, and our planet home.
> Post Carbon Institute: Why Climate Change Isn’t Our Biggest Environmental Problem, And Why Technology Won’t Save Us (Richard Heinberg). Our core ecological problem is overshoot, a systemic issue that produces the symptom of global warming. Until we understand and address this systemic imbalance, symptomatic treatment will constitute an endlessly frustrating round of stopgap measures ultimately destined to fail. [Note: Overpopulation leads to overconsumption, overshoot, and climate change]
> Weathering The Storm: The Prefect Storm: The Good, Bad & Ugly (R. Michael Conley). The threat of the “Perfect Storm” continues to grow, but the tone and tempo of its advancing trajectory has changed. In this revealing article, Conley shares his thoughts on the changing nature of the storm since he first started writing about it over a dozen years ago. His conclusions might come as a surprise to many long-time readers.
> Medium: The Complexity Of Cultural Evolution (Joe Brewer). Human cultures operate as complex systems. Only by learning to see that emergent patterns arise through the interactions of constituent parts will we begin to discern how evolutionary change is taking us closer to planetary-scale collapse — and that design practices will be needed that make use of what is now known from cultural evolutionary studies.
> Peak Prosperity: We Need A Social Revolution (Charles Hugh Smith). Political and technological revolutions share a hierarchical structure, but social revolutions are bottoms-up affairs. Social revolutions may generate political waves, but they need not rely on political, financial or technological hierarchies to transform society. There are two basic solutions: stop participating in destructive dynamics, and assemble the foundational pieces of a connected social life.
> Resilience: Deconstructing Transition (Erik Lindberg). We need to recreate transition movement with an entirely different sense of time, drama, history, choice, and design, around energy descent, but one without any remaining illusions that the peaking of world net energy will be a moment or event and certainly not a moment of clarity. It will in large part be a period of greater cultural denial and head burying, of conflict and power-grabs, than originally hoped it might be.
> Union of Concerned Scientists: When Rising Seas Hit Home (Report). This national analysis identifies when US coastal communities will face a level of disruptive flooding that affects people’s homes, daily routines, and livelihoods. It identifies hundreds of communities that will face chronic inundation and possible retreat over the coming decades as sea levels rise. The findings provide affected communities a measure of how much time they have to prepare.
> The Guardian: Scientists Discover 91 Volcanoes Below Antarctic Ice Sheet (Robin McKie). This is in addition to 47 already known. Their eruption would melt more ice in region affected by climate change. This is the largest volcanic region on Earth—two kilometers below the surface of the vast ice sheet that covers west Antarctica. Volcanic eruptions may not reach the surface but could melt the ice from beneath and drastically destabilize it.
> Circle of Blue: Record Heat In 2016 Broke Lake Temperature Records Too (Brett Walton). Record concentrations of heat-trapping gases and a strong El Nino helped raise the global average temperature to a new high in 2016, also driving the average lake temperatures to the highest on record. The decade-long pattern of warming is most pronounced in the Northern Hemisphere, especially in Europe. Lakes are also shrinking, due to decreased rainfall and increases in water withdrawals and evaporation.
> Common Dreams: Critics Condemn Trump Administration’s “Assault On America’s Water Resources” (Jessica Corbett). Since taking office, the president, administration officials, and the Republican-led Congress have moved aggressively to roll back decades of water-quality protections put in place by previous Republican and Democratic administrations,” including the Waters of the United States rule (WOTUS), also called the Clean Water Rule, which intends to protect the drinking water of millions of Americans.
> MPR News: Microplastics Could Pose Big Treatment Challenges (Kirsti Marohn). A growing body of research has been documenting an emerging threat to Minnesota waters—tiny plastic particles and microbeads found in everything from shampoo to fleece jackets. But even as we learn more about how prevalent these pollutants are, there’s still much we don’t know about their dangers or how to respond. The most effective and less expensive solution is to keep plastic out of the wastewater stream.
> REneweconomy: 6.5% Of Global GDP Spent Subsidising Fossil Fuels, Or $12m Every Minute (Ian Clover). Analysis of the subsidies steered towards the fossil fuel industry has revealed that a massive $US5.3 trillion ($A6.7 trillion) was paid to coal, gas and other finite resources in 2015—up from $US4.9 trillion in 2013, according to a report published in the journal World Development.
> Green News-Huffpost: Global Political Crises Boil Down To Two Words: Fossil Fuels (Brian Ross). Fewer than a hundred people have 1.59 quadrillion [dollars]reasons to divide, distract, and disengage citizens of the world to keep the oil flowing, even if 100M people may die by 2030, and 75% of the world’s population may perish from the heat by 2100.
> Reuters News: People Must Collaborate With The Planet To Stay Out Of Trouble (Megan Rowling). Nearly 1,000 researchers have gathered in Stockholm this week to work out ways to halt deforestation, protect coral reefs, avoid the collapse of fish stocks, make food healthier, and build cities that can cope with climate change. The Resilience 2017 conference aims to chart a path through today’s turbulent times, by bolstering “resilience”.
> Agweek: Fighting Drought And Flood With Soil Health (Jeremy Schlecht). The Upper Midwest is in the grips of a historic drought, pretty close on the heels of several historic floods. Both extremes cause devastating, expensive problems for agriculture. A recent Iowa study looked at no-till techniques, cover crops, alternative grazing systems, crop systems integrating livestock grazing and perennial crops and provided estimates for what would have happened had those techniques been used during recent floods and droughts.
> Resilience: Open Minds, Open Doors (Angela Karp). Prince Charles, author of Harmony, A New Way of Looking at the World, recently served as keynote conference speaker in Wales. The key take-home message was that human integrity is slipping because: we’ve lost the connection between who we are and what we do; continually focus on fixing problems without paying attention to central causes; and forgotten that all things are connected. We need to open our minds to the “inherent genius of nature.”
> Yes! Magazine: Who Has The Skills To Build Community? We All Do (Sarah van Gelder). An idea came to me when I was on the road trip that resulted in my new book, The Revolution Where You Live. What if people could share what they know with people in other communities around the country? What if people had access to the skills that would allow them to step up with confidence together with others where they live? Perhaps this is how we can spread the genius of grassroots change.
> Strong Towns: Modern Small-Scale Farming – Could It Sustain Us? Could We Sustain It? (Rachel Quednau). Between the high start-up costs, physical labor required, a regulatory environment geared for corporate farms and the public’s expectations about how much food should cost, it’s very hard to make it as a small-scale farmer. As for whether towns can be sustained with local food alone, most interviewed farmers said not now, but it might be feasible eventually, if we adopt a long-term view.
> Common Dreams: Oregon Lauded As Progressive Model For Reproductive Healthcare Reform (Jessica Corbett). Oregon’s Reproductive Health Equity Act (House Bill 3391) expands access to birth control, abortion, and other reproductive services to thousands of Oregon residents regardless of their citizenship status, gender identity, income, or type of insurance. Insurance providers in Oregon will now be required to cover abortion and contraception.
> Resilience: The Wisdom Around Us (Brian Keller). Certain peoples in history created societies that were healthy, educated, clean, happy—by their own testimony—and ran on little energy, generated little waste and needed little government. We need to look at how they did these things, and what we can learn from them.
> Clean Technica: This Containerized Solution Brings Clean Water & Solar Power To Remote Areas (Derek Markham). Getting electricity and clean water to remote villages and off-grid locations can make a huge difference in the lives of inhabitants. But running power and water lines from a central location can cost far more than bringing an electricity generation and water filtration system directly to the location. One Italian startup has a $15,000 all-in-one modular on-site solution.
> Minnesota Pollution Control Agency: MN State Fair—Eco Experience 2017. Aug. 24-Sept. 4, St. Paul. Key exhibits—Air, Water, & Climate; See: www.ecoexperience.org
> 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
> Fresh Energy: Energy Fair, Sept. 9, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. & Sept.10, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Harriet Island, 200 Dr. Justus Ohage Blvd., St. Paul, MN. Info: https://www.theenergyfair.org/tickets/
> 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.
> 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; 40 members of the US House on the Climate Solutions Caucus are involved.
> 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